Lincoln Boulevard could get medians, dedicated bus lanes and a business improvement district after all three concepts received unanimous support from City Council last week.

Council was asked for feedback on the trio as part of the ongoing work on the Lincoln Neighborhood Corridor (LiNC) plan. LiNC calls for substantial upgrades to 17 blocks of the road stretching from the I-10 freeway to Ozone Avenue. The plan includes economic updates, reconfiguration of the street, reclamation of unused curb cuts and improvements to the sidewalks.

Staff has been working with neighborhood groups, businesses, city commissions and the all-volunteer Lincoln Boulevard Task Force to draft a plan for the road and council praised the results at their Nov. 24 meeting.

“All in all I think what we have here is a winner,” said Mayor Kevin McKeown.

The council was asked to provide feedback on three concepts last week and while each concept was unanimously approved, staff will have to return to council for final approval on the specifics of each concept including timelines, budgets and implementation programs.

Staff has proposed medians along parts of Lincoln Boulevard. Their initial analysis concluded that about 1,000 feet of median could be installed with no impact on traffic and that it would be possible to double that with relatively minor impacts to flow.

“I think there’s a lot more bang for the buck in terms of beautification and the safer crossings you get across Lincoln Boulevard,” said Councilman Ted Winterer in supporting the maximum length of median. “And in an era where wayfinding apps like Waze have generated a lot of cut through traffic in our neighborhoods, this will reduce some of that.”

Due to the number of small businesses on Lincoln, staff said some kind of incentive program might be necessary to help facilitate the growth of a business improvement district.

Council’s unanimous support for an incentive program came with a few qualifications. Mayor Kevin McKeown said he’d want the incentives to target the kind of businesses that helped improve the neighborhood, not necessarily those that had contributed to its poor reputation in the past.

Councilman Terry O’Day said he’d like any city money to also incentivize local hiring.

“I would like to see that we go as far as we can to prioritize youth jobs,” he said.

Councilwoman Sue Himmelrich asked if staff had considered the way their proposal would contribute to gentrification of the road.

“I don’t think the business improvement district has the same force of influence as the rapid gentrification that’s happening in Venice which I think is a product of more than just a couple of businesses locating there,” said senior strategic planner Peter James.

Councilwoman Pam O’Connor said gentrification is always a challenging issue and while the city could keep home prices low by letting the area decline, existing homeowners actually support improvements. She said the city aims to address equality through its ongoing commitment to affordable housing but said improving the quality of life in an area will increase property values.

“We do want to help the existing businesses, but I think we do have to recognize that there will always be some change that is beyond our control, more societal, more driven by culture and again, as we continue to improve Santa Monica and this is one of the areas that needs a little improvement, you know, homes do go up in value,” she said.

The Council also reiterated support for exploring a dedicated bus lane during rush hour traffic. According to the proposal, parking would be eliminated from Lincoln Boulevard during peak travel times and those lanes would become dedicated bus lanes. The lanes would be in effect northbound during the morning commute and southbound during the evening commute. Outside the peak travel times, parking would be allowed and busses would travel with regular traffic.

Santa Monica has had plans for dedicated bus lanes for years and the Council first approved an ordinance to explore the program in 2005. The program stalled due to a lack of jurisdiction over the street but has remerged as one of the top priorities now that Santa Monica controls Lincoln Boulevard within city borders.

Staff said it currently takes busses between 13-15 minutes to travel from the southern edge of town to Pico Boulevard (where busses turn) but a dedicated bus lane could cut that time to between 2-5 minutes. Staff said the hope would be to motivate neighboring jurisdictions to also create dedicated lanes, as those savings would increase as the length of dedicated lane increased.

Implementation of LiNC will occur over time and Council voiced support for expediting the parts that are easy and/or cheap to accomplish. James said some improvements are already underway due to the work of volunteers and he gave particular credit to Roger Swanson for his leadership of the Lincoln Task Force.

“Without incentive, the quality of the environment has really cleaned up in the past year and that’s due to Roger [Swanson] and his team of volunteers,” he said.

For more information, visit www.lincsm.net.

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