Beth Rolandson, principal transportation planner with the Planning and Community Development Division previewed the City’s new Pedestrian Action Plan (PAP) in front of about 70 folks at the Wilshire/Montana (Wilmont) Neighborhood Coalition meeting last Tuesday night at the Montana Avenue Branch Library.

I mentioned in last week’s “My Write” that I thought it would be a great opportunity to ask tough questions; being that traffic, congestion and parking are the top community concerns and have gotten progressively worse over the years. But, it seems the assembly wasn’t in the mood for hardball, preferring to ask about street lighting, stop signs and crosswalks.

I knew Rolandson’s presentation was off to a rocky start when she stated, “We are good social scientists.” I wouldn’t agree with that, however, one thing is for certain, they’re lousy traffic engineers.

Rolandson’s view of her roll in the City bureaucracy cuts to the core of the problems as demonstrated by the way the City has, and is, dealing with traffic, parking and transportation issues. For example, there was some mumbo-jumbo about how more pedestrian crosswalks may help those with high blood pressure.

Most important for me is feeling and being safe while on foot. I’d like to know that some motorist turning at an intersection isn’t going to cut me off in a crosswalk because he/she can’t see past parked cars down the street.

I’d like to walk past subterranean office parking garages and know that some motorist shooting up an access ramp isn’t going to take me out like a pin in a bowling alley.

And, I feel much safer (while keeping my blood pressure low) when some bozo on a bicycle doesn’t race by me on a sidewalk.

As I’ve written before, most of the negatives of being a pedestrian in Santa Monica have to do with rude, dangerous and illegal behavior by motorists and bicyclists. Without enforcement, this condition will continue and escalate. All the wide sidewalks, lovely planters, distracting medians, slower speed limits, curb extensions and social engineering in the world won’t make a dangerous situation safe, let alone pleasant.

A Santa Monica Police Department Motor Officer with a new cite book will do a world of good when it comes to behavior modification. I’d appreciate it if Rolandson and her staff did the job they were hired to do: traffic planning without the social engineering and over-intellectualization. And, adopt a goal of keeping Santa Monica moving, not gridlocking it.

Another issue that came up at Wilmont’s monthly meeting concerned the use of a parking lot next to the Civic Auditorium. A number of friends and neighbors are advocating for a 2.8-acre sports field directly across Fourth Street from Santa Monica High School on what is a 1,100 car surface parking lot used by City Hall and the L.A. Courthouse employees on weekdays and for auditorium events (when there were events) at night and on weekends.

Two Samohi PTA moms, Jaleh Mamita and Ann Hoover, have been making the rounds asking for community support to finally undertake a “regulation-sized” field that can be used by some “1,000 students involved in athletics at Samohi,” such as football, soccer, baseball, softball, lacrosse, track and field and marching band.

All need practice space, as Samohi has been critically short of athletic space on or near the main campus for years, they say. They claim a field was promised to the community by the City Council in 2005 as part of the Civic Center Specific Plan.

The Civic Center is not the right place for a 2.8-acre sports field. Here are the issues as I see them:

  • The school district is responsible for its own facilities, but has built out the Samohi campus. Now, they want the City and the residents to give them prime downtown real estate to compensate for its own bad planning.
  • A regulation sports field would have to be enclosed by a 20-foot high security fence, making the facility out-of-bounds except for sanctioned school or recreation and parks events. Also, one field is not going to serve the needs of all sports as each activity has its own unique and incompatible physical requirements.
  • No revenue would be generated. Current parking would have to be moved underground at a cost of millions of dollars for a subterranean garage large enough to meet the area’s various parking demands.
  • What is the goal for the remaining open area in the Civic Center? Arts, entertainment and culture? Child care? Housing and/or hotels? Expanded athletic facilities? A sports field would pretty much add to the mish-mosh and nullify any other opportunity for the area while serving mostly young athletes. The rest of us will be outside the fence, looking in.  And, no tennis courts?

According to many postings on Santa Monica’s various politically oriented, social media websites (like Facebook), there’s a growing backlash against Santa Monica College’s (SMC) 110 student, Early Childhood Education Center (ECEC) scheduled to start construction early next year on 1.8 acres of valuable, publicly owned, Civic Center space.

The land is worth millions. SMC is paying only a buck a year for the next 55 years plus options for this endeavor which is a part of the college’s child-care curriculum but operated by an outside for-profit. With the tide of public opinion rising against this misconceived land grab, don’t be surprised if lawsuits start flying.

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