The Daily Press office is located on the 1600 block of 5th Street and it’s a fantastic location for news. We can see when traffic backs up on the 10, potential riots are mere steps away and we can check on the status of several construction projects with little more than a head out the window.
We also oversee the 10 offramp and last week, visitors to Santa Monica were welcomed by a homeless man wielding a gun. The weapon turned out to be a fake but it was impossible to tell and drivers were justified in their terror. This incident brings up a lot of topics around homelessness, mental health, police procedure and gun culture but it also hit one of our pet peeves at the Daily Press: Santa Monica’s gateways are at best neglected and at worst outright dangerous.
While it’s true that entering the city is uninspiring, if not depressing depending on your road of choice, the arguments for spending time and money on this idea now are rooted in public safety and local economics.
In recent months we’ve covered no less than two significant accidents at the same offramp. In December of last year, we were at the Lincoln off ramp taking photos of a brush fire related to the homeless encampment on Caltrans land and before that we were at the same intersection covering a homeless man who was threatening to jump onto the freeway.
Our freeway exits are never going to be marque gateways, but they can at least be visually appealing and safe. This can be done despite Santa Monica lacking authority over the actual offramps and freeway adjacent land as they are controlled by a state agency (Caltrans).
We can prioritize something like the Gateway Master Plan (without the huge freeway capping elements) to improve downtown offramps, we can work to take over maintenance of the worst Caltrans land and we can develop a consistent plan for the offramps that puts thought into how people perceive the city when they get here.
The actual Gateway To the City can go through the standard Santa Monica process of argument, recrimination and divisiveness but there should be somewhere that is a recognized point of entry because whether you’re coming in on one of the freeway exits, along a Blvd. or from the beach, there’s nowhere that actually welcomes you to Santa Monica. There are some nascent efforts on the east and west sides with the little understood wave sculpture over Wilshire and the recently rebuilt California Incline. For our money, the Incline has the most potential but like the freeways it’s a jurisdictional problem with Caltrans.
This is as much an economic as it is a safety related need. Santa Monica’s economy is highly dependent on visitors, whether they be day trippers, overnight visitors or workers. The quality of life that Santa Monicans expect is entirely dependent on out of towners spending their money here and if they can’t get here easily, or don’t feel safe when they do get here, they’ll go somewhere else. This is magnified by the pandemic fallout because we’re never going to recoup all the lost office workers thanks to the rise of work-at-home so your favorite sandwich spot, local gas station and taco truck are all counting on leisure travel to fill the gap.
When you walk along the beach path, you know instantly when you cross into Santa Monica and that feeling should be replicated on our streets. It’s not a vanity project with art for the sake of arts sake but fixing the obvious safety problems while creating something that actually draws people here is one of the many vital steps necessary to keep businesses open and city services running.
SMDP Editorial Board