Residents want the Pier experience to remain basically the same, albeit with potentially fewer cars and better pedestrian access.

The Santa Monica Pier board recently held a community workshop to discuss plans for the future of the Pier. Organizers said the meeting went well but highlighted the need for better communication between officials and the public.

“The beginning of the meeting was a report on what the consultants were thinking and sort of options for what could be happening on the Pier in the future, including the bridge replacement project,” Pier board chair Judy Abdo said. “What I realized from listening to the comments on that was the need for the bridge replacement wasn’t fully explained by any of us, and that the complicated issues that are raised by the replacement of the bridge need to be further communicated.”

Abdo said the bridge project is necessary because the bridge has been identified as in need of seismic strengthening, and the decision to replace the bridge was made by the federal government.

“So right now the City is in the EIR (Environmental Impact Report) process about how that bridge will be replaced,” she said. “And there are many opinions about what the bridge should look like, whether there should be two bridges and how cars will get on the Pier in the future.”

The most important feedback Abdo heard was that people don’t want to see great changes to the Pier, and the issue of whether or not there should be cars on the Pier.

“Many of the people who were there, while they may be residents, also had businesses on the Pier and we discussed whether there should be cars in the long run on the Pier.

Abdo said that delivery, maintenance, emergency, harbor guard and vehicles with handicap placards will always need to be on the Pier.

“So when we’re talking about whether or not vehicles should be on the Pier, besides those kinds of vehicles,” she said, “should there be parking on the Pier? And there are lots of different opinions about vehicles on the Pier, and how many, and when they might reduce the number of vehicles on the Pier.”

The presentation included an access and use study, which addressed suggestions for changes to five areas on the Pier; showed pedestrian, bicycle and vehicular circulation and linkage on the Pier; and movement and access concepts for the Pier.

Other issues raised during the workshop included better access to the Pier overall, especially from the top of the Pier at Colorado. Better access for the disabled was also an issue of import to the public.

There was discussion of an additional bridge to the south side for bikes and the need for proper bike parking areas. Comments on increasing pedestrians’ ability to better navigate the Pier were raised, as were those regarding the need for surface areas friendly to strollers and wheelchairs.

The fact that there is no “backside to the Pier” was mentioned, along with the need for clear areas for pedestrian flow in front of and leading up to businesses. One resident commented that “movement is part of the Pier experience.”

Pier board member Misti Kerns said she was “very happy with the presentation and thrilled with the public input.”

“[It was] very needed and most welcome,” she said. “A well-managed and very positive community meeting with wonderful and creative ideas and engagement. Just underscores how much the community cares about our Pier and the need to continue to reinvest in the Pier.”

Abdo thinks at this point the board has a great deal of input and that the consultants can take what they’ve heard, and after some more input, can come up with some creative solutions to some of the issues that were raised.

“The consultants were hired by the City to help the City and the Pier board think through some of these issues,” she said. “And one of the benefits of having an outside consultant come in is that they ask questions that are pushing the envelope and are visionary and making us think outside the box.

“And I think that’s a very good thing so that we’re not just talking among ourselves. We’re hearing the public and having different solutions suggested by those consultants who have done this kind of work in other areas.”

The next community workshop regarding the access and layout of the Pier will be held on Wednesday, Dec. 2, at the Ken Edwards Center, 1527 4th St., from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

“I’m sure at that workshop we’ll have even more ideas raised and even more feedback and that will be very valuable to the City for future planning as we go to the EIR process for the bridge and as we look at, as a community, what would be happening on the Pier in the future,” Abdo said.

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