There appears to be some relief for motorists and pedestrians around Santa Monica High School during drop-off and pick-up times, at least for now.
Following an outpouring of frustration by parents regarding traffic and safety issues, the City of Santa Monica assigned four part-time crossing guards to work the congested intersection of Michigan Avenue and 7th Street starting last month.
But officials said the crossing guards are a temporary answer to a problem that will likely require more attention and longer-term solutions. It remains unclear how long they’ll be stationed outside the high school.
“We have met with City and police department leaders to address parent safety concerns and have been assured that they are working diligently to come up with permanent solutions to ease congestion and provide a safe route for pedestrians, cyclists and vehicles during peak school hours,” Santa Monica-Malibu schools Superintendent Sandra Lyon said. “We appreciate the temporary crossing guards while a permanent solution is considered as student safety is our top priority.”
The hullaballoo over the lack of crossing guards stemmed from renovations in the area, which began in June following City Council approval of a plan aiming to reduce congestion while promoting alternative modes of transportation.
Michigan Avenue west of Lincoln Boulevard and 7th Street south of Michigan were converted into one-way streets as part of a Safe Routes to School initiative.
A crossing guard had been stationed outside Samohi before the reconfiguration project began, and a guard remained at the school during construction. But due to city budget constraints, officials said, the position was eliminated once the changes were completed.
The district urged caution and patience as school leaders, including principal Eva Mayoral and PTSA president Joan Krenik, asked the City to keep a crossing guard on duty outside the school during busy times.
Meanwhile, the daily gridlock and hazards continued. Traffic backed up on Lincoln Boulevard and Michigan Avenue. Cars stopped in the streets as students hopped in or out, sometimes darting through the maze of vehicles.
Parents reported road rage and illegal turns. Some began using two nearby gas stations as alternative pick-up and drop-off zones.
Krenik called it “unsafe for all involved.” One parent said it was stressful and dangerous. Another deemed it a “nightmare.”
“The safety of our high school students and the parents who bring them to school should be paramount,” Samohi parent Beth Leder-Pack said last month. “It’s kind of an apple-pie issue in my mind.”
Leder-Pack said the situation has improved since Nov. 16, when crossing guards returned to help control traffic and prevent gridlock.
“It’s definitely better,” she said.
The district has urged parents and students to use caution and be mindful of other motorists, cyclists and pedestrians in the area, especially during high-volume times of the day.