A group of residents protested outside of City Hall last week against the Bergamot Transit Village. (Paul Alvarez Jr. editor@www.smdp.com)

Last Tuesday night, City Council approved a development agreement (DA) allowing Texas developer Hines to build nearly 767,000 square feet of creative office, commercial and residential space along Olympic Boulevard.

Most residents strongly opposed the Bergamot Transit Village (BTV) DA because of the traffic congestion that will result. Despite letter writing campaigns and massive rallies on City Hall’s lawn that urged council members to “just say ‘no’,” they just said “yes.”

For the record, Mayor Pam O’Connor, Mayor Pro-Tem Terry O’Day and council members Bob Holbrook and Gleam Davis supported the DA while Kevin McKeown, Tony Vazquez and Ted Winterer didn’t

What’s next? The project will be officially approved by council at a second reading tomorrow night, then we’ll find out if enough Santa Monicans are angry enough to stop it.

A new organization called Residocracy.org will launch an official referendum petition to overrule council’s decision on the Bergamot development and “Take Our Town Back.”

A “Referendum Launch Event” will be held on Wed., Feb. 12 at 7 p.m. at the SGI Auditorium at Sixth Street and Wilshire Boulevard. Printed petitions will be available at the event and on Residocracy’s website to download, print, and circulate for registered voter signatures.

There’s also talk of litigation and the Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City (SMCLC) will announce their plans later this week.

I’m hearing that O’Day and O’Connor who voted “yes’ on this (and virtually every new development that’s come before them) think that most Santa Monicans support all these projects and that opposition only involves a couple hundred hysterical no-growthers.

They’re in for a big surprise. O’Connor’s vote along with her acceptance of many campaign contributions from developers such as Hines will pretty much kill any chance for her re-election effort this fall. Plus, O’Connor specifically has been targeted for “retirement.”

Holbrook, whose term is up this fall, isn’t likely to run again which is just as well. His consistent pro-development votes have made him a target, too. O’Day and Davis will feel the wrath of voters in 2016.

As bad as the traffic and congestion from the BTV promises to be, MANgo or the Michigan Avenue Greenway project from Stewart Street to Santa Monica High School — and eventually on to the beach is worse. It’s also on council’s agenda for review, tomorrow.

Thirty members of planning staff including three paid consultants came up with this latest experiment in traffic calming to force us to walk more and ride bicycles. It’ll turn Michigan Avenue into the city’s longest recreational park.

MANgo is being promoted as “a safe and comfortable place for neighbors of all ages to walk, bike, relax and interact with one another.” Yep.

The fact that it essentially semi-privatizes the street by limiting public access in front of the home of a vocal Santa Monica cycling advocate may or may not be relevant. But, to the unicorn chasers in City Hall, it’s too good of an opportunity to pass up.

Planners promise that MANgo “will make it easier to get around the Pico Neighborhood,” however traffic diverters at key intersections, turn restrictions, shrinking traffic lanes, mid-street islands and roundabouts, wide sidewalks, mini-parks, curb extensions that interfere with turns and bulb-outs that make cars maneuver around extended planted areas built into current parking spaces contradict that promise.

Michigan Avenue intersections with Seventh Street, Lincoln Boulevard; 11th, 14th, 17th and 20th streets will all have street impediments to slow and discourage traffic.

Staff’s Pollyanna vision is a shared space/street with gamboling children, strolling pedestrians, carefree bicyclists and contented motorists in the same space at the same time. I’m wondering how fire and delivery trucks or emergency vehicles will handle the obstacle course?

Pico neighbors are upset because, at the last moment, someone slipped “a maximum target of 2,000 vehicle trips per day along the greenway” into the concept plan. “It’s nothing more than a thinly veiled strategy aimed at imposing traffic diverters on a community that has overwhelmingly rejected the concept of diverters,” one angry Pico resident told me.

City Council will also review concepts for the “Safe Routes to School” scheme for Michigan, Seventh Street and Pico Boulevard near Santa Monica High School. This is where pedestrians, dual-direction bicycle lanes and a single, one-way vehicular traffic lane will all collide next to Samohi. I question the safety benefits of this mess.

Plans include reducing vehicle lanes to 10 feet wide on Pico between Sixth and Seventh streets to accommodate a 12-foot wide, bi-directional track for bicyclists riding to/from Ocean Park. Plus, there’s a whole host of other traffic jamming elements proposed for the entire area. City Council will love it. You’ll hate it.

An item calling for the same kind of road alterations for Berkeley Street between Wilshire Boulevard and Montana Avenue is also on council’s agenda.

Alterations proposed include realignment of Berkeley’s intersection with Stanford Street; two median islands (between Stanford and Lipton Avenue), a traffic calming circle at Lipton along with two curb extensions; and channelizers at the Wilshire intersection. It’s a recipe for more gridlock. Council will be ecstatic.

Until there’s a turnover in political thinking in City Hall and staff is forced to respond to real citizen needs — like solving traffic problems instead of pursuing pipe dreams — we’re going to have lot’s more ludicrous traffic proposals guaranteed to make congestion worse.




Bill can be reached at mr.bilbau@gmail.com

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