As we emerge from the pandemic, how can the City recover in a way that celebrates community while rebuilding our economic vitality? That is exactly what the Ocean Park Association (OPA) and City staff seek in presenting a plan to City Council on June 8th to pilot a program that reserves two blocks of Main Street for pedestrians on four weekends this summer. OPA has been planning the pilot for months to ensure a safe and family friendly environment and help our local businesses survive.

For months, we have worked closely with the Fire, Police, and the Transportation Departments to address any concerns about pausing car, bike and scooter travel down a short section of Main St. We also intend to gather data that measures our successes and guides further improvements. In jointly developing a safe, shared street plan, we have assessed traffic flows, parking, buses, noise, fire access and public safety. We are Santa Monica and we put community wellbeing first!

We also have worked closely with our local businesses because we believe a Healthy Main Street equals a Healthy Ocean Park. Who wants vacant storefronts and more graffiti? Who wants to lose more jobs and opportunities for residents during a difficult time? The Main Street Business Improvement Association is a full partner in the effort, contributing expertise, monies, and staff as we seek together to help our merchants thrive again. 

Over the last few weeks, we have noticed public concerns from a small number of loud voices who oppose revitalizing our streets after COVID and expanding the al fresco program, even though it is supported by more than 80% of residents responding to our survey.  We reached out especially to the minority of skeptics, listened to their issues and adjusted the pilot accordingly. For example, parking spaces have already been increased on Main St. through the removal of K-Rail barricades. Additional directional signage will also be erected, for another example. 

Nonetheless, we must clear up misinformation being circulated around town. Bars and restaurants will, in fact, follow their usual hours; noise levels will continue to be covered under existing enforcement; the closure is set for Saturday and Sunday over four summer weekends only. In addition, we are measuring the impacts on surrounding streets so we can assess the pilot based on data, not unproven assertions. OPA believes in listening to all our neighbors, as well as our members.

Ocean Park is doing something very special with this plan: we heard from all constituencies, studied past Main St. events, evaluated highly successful open streets pilots in nearby cities such as Culver City and West Hollywood, and collaborated with the business community and City staff to build a safe and viable shared streets pilot. The Council will be voting on not just a pilot program, but also a new model of engagement between the City and a neighborhood. This program will lead the way in Santa Monica coming back stronger than ever from the pandemic and coming together on the streets we share and love.

We hope everyone will join us in moving forward together!

Sean Besser, Chair, Main St. Committee, Ocean Park Association