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Range of Proposals Considered For Michigan Ave. Greenway Begins To Narrow

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Jason Kligier, city of Santa Monica Transportation Planning Associate, presents to meeting attendees at Virgina Ave. Park in the Pico Neighborhood.

At this week’s Virginia Park meeting for the Michigan Ave. Neighborhood Greenway proposal, a slightly clearer picture of what we might see for the project emerged. There was particular controversy in the neighborhood over the proposal for a diverter at 11th St. & Michigan, proposed there because the blocks from Lincoln to 11th have the highest number of car trips in the study corridor. The trips are created by the school and cut throughs for the freeway ramp on Lincoln just north of Michigan.

The Pico Neighborhood Association created their own survey (supplementing feedback the city solicited at it’s meetings and events) conducted by volunteers (apparently having sought but were denied funding from the city to hire a professional polling firm) and found the strongest opposition to diversion, nearing on unanimous. This information was presented at the meeting alongside the presentation by city staff and consultants from the planning firm Meléndrez. Barbara Fillet conducted her own survey as well, information from which she presented, and found different results, and more support for diversion (disclosure: Fillet is on the advisory panel for Santa Monica Next).

I don’t doubt these surveys were conducted with earnest effort, but skepticism is warranted with this kind of polling for a variety of reasons. Question phrasing, and whether or not recipients are informed of what a feature looks like, how it works, and what the trade offs are, effects outcomes. Going door to door preferences home owners over rental apartments, as many apartment units are behind gated entry. Locked gated entry to the apartment building was the case where I lived right off of Michigan on 9th St. in the area diversion would most greatly potentially benefit.

Pop-Up MANGo (Michigan Avenue Neighborhood Greenway) Planning & Community Event

Pop-up diverter at 11th St during Sep. 21st Pop-Up MANGo event.

I don’t want to get wrapped up in comparing validity of various input methods, which created a few slightly heated moments of it’s own, but I can speak for myself in saying I believe even just one diversion would greatly benefit the comfort and safety for the entire Michigan corridor, and most especially reduce the morning rush headaches for residents who live directly adjacent the high school and Lincoln Blvd. The greenway treatments I have experienced elsewhere that have been very successful, in Portland Oregon and most recently visiting Berkley, featured both low traffic speeds, and low traffic volumes, with diverters employed at infrequent but key areas to facilitate the calmed atmosphere.

Michigan Ave. is fairly low traffic during much of the day and especially later evening on it own, however that morning and afternoon rush typically involves volumes of traffic well beyond “greenway’s” (or similar corridors that go by different names) in other cities. Responding to the particularly sharp criticism, of diversion, city staff appeared to be taking it off the table, but with potential for a comprise of sign based turn restrictions from 11th limited to rush hours. Read more…

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Mainstreaming Bicycling, Lessons From Davis California

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Path grade separations on the main path loop network around town meant that if you didn’t want to, you could largely skip crossing busy streets.

I’m returned to Santa Monica this week from attending the California by Bike Summit in Oakland, with the theme of mainstreaming the bike in California, and a few extra days in the Bay Area and San Francisco as well. There were numerous sessions and discussions with valuable lessons that will inform my writing, but I thought I would start with reflecting on the experience on day one, attending the optional bike tour of Davis California by way of the Amtrak Capital Corridor from Oakland. The tour was led by local advocates Steve and Emily Tracy of Davis Bicycles!.

IMG_1473Lore of Davis is impossible to not come across in the writing on American bicycling, but until this trip I had not experienced the only city distinguished with a platinum bicycling friendly community award by the League of American Bicycling. After a bit of a let down in the gap between the cycling paradise mythology of platinum rated Portland Oregon and the more moderate reality of being better than most everywhere else, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Davis did not disappoint in providing miles of seamless and continuous idyllic cycling that ties the small city together (the scale makes the task of a bike network a bit easier). While not perfect, it did exceed my expectations in several regards.

One of the things that struck me most of all about Davis though was the high bicycling mode share in the context of what is a fairly low density, low to mid-rise urban environment. Apart from the network of dedicated bike paths and a few other subtle differences, Davis is predominately the sort of land use pattern most often associated with a near monolithic dependency and orientation around driving in much of the U.S.

Some of this can be attributed to Davis being a college town, but not all college towns have fostered a culture of cycling around them quite like Davis, nor do I think we can’t learn from or apply lessons from such a context to other environments, like suburban office parks.

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Bike parking at Patwin Elementary School, connected by an extensive loop of class I bike paths that reach nearly every educational institution at every level in the city.

The orientation to relaxed and comfortable cycling also reaches every level of education, and every part of the city, with nearly every school for every range of grades, connected by a loop of high quality class 1 cycle path facilities. The long standing commitment to safe routes to school was both exciting to behold, but also frustrating in light of how lacking progress has been on creating comfortable spaces to ride to school in most of the state and the country, including the debates here in Santa Monica. Read more…

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Santa Monica Leads on Bike Share, But Is Willing to Let the Region Catch Up

While researching the Streetsblog Los Angeles story concerning the new regional push for bike share, I had a chance to talk with Santa Monica Mayor Pam O’Connor about what role Santa Monica has in the regional effort. As Gary Kavanagh reported last month, Santa Monica leaped Long Beach and Los Angeles in the race to be the first L.A. County city to have bike share when it approved a motion to pursue proposals for a city-wide bike share system.

Yesterday, Streetsblog reported that a near-majority of the members of the Metro Board of Directors, including O’Connor, is pushing a motion for the county’s transit authority to pursue a regional bike share. So what does the Metro motion mean for Santa Monica?

It depends on your point of view. O’Connor promised that Santa Monica would continue to pursue a city-wide, or sub-regional, program even as its neighbors, including Los Angeles, Culver City, West Hollywood and Long Beach, examine what it can take to bring a regional system.

“Hopefully, we’re all going to work together, but we can also get something going sub-regionally, ” O’Conner commented. ”Santa Monica shouldn’t have a different bike share system than Los Angeles or Culver City,”

Santa Monica’s bike share grant is funded through the California Transportation Commission which requires the city to have its Request for Proposals released this December. When it became clear that regional interests were interested in regional bike share, Santa Monica staff through O’Conner authored a motion to allow an extension of the grant. The motion, now co-sponsored by Garcetti and L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, concludes: Read more…

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SaMo Plans for Memorial Park Area Plan Around Expo Station.

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(This is part II of a two part series on Santa Monica Next. Part I is here. – DN)

At the first workshop for the Memorial Park Neighborhood Plan, there was a lot of enthusiasm for the possibility of capping the freeway with a park (from 17th to 14th, although former mayor Mike Feinstein advocated for extending it to 11th and 18th) despite the financial challenges such an ambitious endeavor would require.

Also, as I commonly expect now in such gatherings, there were among many attendees simultaneous mutually exclusive desires for a vague sense of environmental sustainability, typified by more solar panels on things, and throw in some more rain water capture and trees, while at the same time contradicted by many sentiments to add a lot more car parking.

One of my constant frustrations is that at the end of the day, Santa Monica gets a lot more right than a lot of other places, but sustainability, in any really deep meaningful sense of the word, remains at times a tokenistic gesture in lieu of addressing the deeper challenges of the 21st Century that make automobile dependency in our cities a great liability.

Such public engagement meetings are as notable for who is absent as who is present. Public meetings often miss many demographics within the city. Wt least among those attending last night there was no enthusiasm, and mostly disdain, for the notion of building tall or density. Tall in this case being anything that might “tower” above 2 story buildings into the feared world of 4 or 5 story buildings.

Santa Monica Next is supported by Bike Center and Pocrass and De Los Reyes Personal Injury Attorneys LLC

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SaMo Next Predicts Santa Monica Will Have First Bike Share System in Greater Los Angeles

Denver_Bike_Share (1)On Tuesday Night, the Santa Monica City Council approved a motion by a 5-1 vote (Bob Holbrook the dissenting vote and Pam O’Conner absent), to move forward with soliciting request for proposals (“shopping” as city attorney Moutrie referred to it), for a city-wide bike share system.

The Council also voted to seek an extension to timed grant funding from the California Transportation Commission that requires a vendor contract by December.

An extension might allow for more time to better coordinate plans with regional neighbors, but the city is taking an approach of being ready to jump rather than waiting. Santa Monica is the only regional city with a funding sourced secured to install bikes.

The city has a track record of taking the time to do it right when it comes to bicycle facilities. In the case of the capital funding for the Santa Monica Bike Center for example, the city requested an extension and received an additional 6 months.

Richard Bloom, who represents Santa Monica and neighboring areas in the California State Assembly, and is a former mayor and council member of Santa Monica, is a supporter of advancing bike share and also ensuring a regional approach. At a forum to be convened on October 15th, Bloom is expected to weigh in along with other regional city representatives of the Westside.

The Santa Monica council meeting discussion, featured a lot of support, with council member Holbrook’s skepticism being the exception. But no one flew the bike flag higher than Council Member Kevin McKeown. Read more…

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Pop-Up MANGo Demonstrates Street Treatments & Greenery On Michigan Ave. in Santa Monica

Pop-Up MANGo (Michigan Avenue Neighborhood Greenway) Planning & Community Event

The pop-up parklet utilizing red zone on 12th St. at the northeast corner adjacent Michigan Ave. was one of the more popular features at the event. I heard one little girl sitting here say "I want this one".

This Sunday was the city’s Pop-Up MANGo event to demo and solicit input for possible neighborhood greenway proposals in the Michigan Ave. corridor of the Pico Neighborhood. It was well attended throughout the 11-3 event, by supporters, by detractors of certain ideas under consideration, and locals wanting to check out the ideas and give input. In my time as an observer of Santa Monica and regional planning efforts in other neighboring cities, I have never seen such a thorough effort (including prior workshops and meeting) to get feedback for a potential street reconfiguration, and  also demonstrate the possibilities on-site.

The food trucks, live music, kids art booth and Italian ice were also nice touches to draw in more people than typical city policy wonks and local activists of various stripes.

Pop-Up MANGo (Michigan Avenue Neighborhood Greenway) Planning & Community EventI heard an effort was made to demo neighborhood roundabouts in Culver City not so long ago, but that apparently the temp treatment was exceedingly ugly, did not demonstrate the potential for additional plantings, and phone numbers were put up to call into the city for feedback, rather than onsite face to face dialogue. That apparently didn’t go over so well. But I heard a lot of people delighted about the roundabout demonstrated at Pop-Up MANGo (of course some critics too), which was a pleasant surprise for me because I often hear so much push back to the idea when talking about them in the abstract to anyone who isn’t already an advocate for traffic calming.

The temporary roundabout demoed near chicanes very noticeably slowed car traffic going through (minus a couple of drivers I saw who were determined to turn through at speed anyways), and the diverter shown at 11th redirecting through car traffic westbound, visibly dropped Michigan Ave. car trip volume, especially in that 11th to Lincoln section often used to cut through for the freeway.

Read more, and view eight more pictures, at Santa Monica Next.

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Riding Around the Santa Monica Airport, Thinking of a Green Future

Riders listen to Frank Gruber as planes and jets idled and landed. All images via Bryan "Orange" Baretta/Santa Monica Spoke. For more pics from the ride, click here. Riders listen to Frank Gruber as planes and jets idled and landed. All images via Bryan “Orange” Baretta/Santa Monica Spoke. For more pics from the ride, click here.

By design and by coincidence, it was a day of contrasts.

On one hand, you have a group of roughly fifty advocates riding bicycles, many of whom are involved in local civic organizations snaking in a pattern across the outside of an airport, occasionally listening to Loyal Marymount Professor Michael Brodsky, Santa Monica Spoke leader Cynthia Rose or community activist and lawyer Frank Gruber, one of the co-chairs of Santa Monica Airport 2 Park. On the other, you had airplane owners and renters flying high above the community, maybe taking in the view of the city. Maybe just flying by.

On one hand, you have a small park, teeming with children playing, families picnicking, and soccer teams racing towards the goal. On the other, you have a gigantic airstrip in the middle of a mostly residential area, that happens to share a fence with the aforementioned park. Brodsky estimated that there were 250 people at the park, at 10 in the morning, when the ride began. By contrast, there would be about 500 people total that would use the airport in some way, shape, or form.

One one hand, you had the smiling advocates politely moving out of the way of automobile traffic accessing the airport. On another, you had a mazaratti driver smirking at and complaining about the rabble in his way as he and his daughter (girlfriend?) drove past.

Yes, it was a day of contrasts. It was also the start of a serious campaign to change the way the Santa Monica Airport is used by and for the community. In the words of Rose, “This isn’t a protest, it’s a discussion.”

Brodsky and Gruber played the roles of good cop/bad cop throughout the half-dozen-stop tour of the airport. Brodsky lamented the environmental and social costs of so much public land being used for the least sustainable type of transportation while Gruber outlined a plan of action to bring about change and gave an abbreviated history lesson on the aiport. Over a dozen times, they were interrupted by aircraft noise that drowned out their words, despite each of them using a megaphone.

But the brewing battle over the Santa Monica Airport’s future is more complicated than a simple 99% vs the 1%. Yesterday’s crowd wasn’t a collection of motley advocates that you would expect to see at Critical Mass. I would estimate the median age of riders was in the 40′s or 50′s and included lawyers, a City of Santa Monica Planning Commissioner, middle class families, and even an airplane owner.

Read more at Santa Monica Next

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Santa Monica Next Looks at the Development Plan for Expo’s SM Terminus

BergStreetPlan_500After 3 years in the works and dozens of public workshops and meetings before commissions and the council, the Bergamot Area Plan has finally passed Tuesday night (really Wednesday morning) with a 6-1 vote. The vote both approves the plan (which will take effect in October), and clarifying that the plan takes the place of existing zoning for the area.

The dissenting vote came from council member Kevin McKeown, who wanted stronger provisions for allocating affordable housing than was already in the plan. The other council members, particularity Gleam Davis in her comments, felt the specific changes McKeown was calling for may compromise the viability of getting more housing built, and should be vetted by economic analysis first, considering the idea as an amendment at a later date.

McKeown also cited possible changes at the state government level relating to housing policy that could introduce or reintroduce new tools for municipalities on housing in the near future, but I also caught city manager Rod Gould shaking his head, with a look that to me suggested he is not as confident the state changes that were cited are enough of a done deal to count on. There are almost endless layers of subtleties and details to these kinds of public deliberations that I could never fully convey in writing, and that the video feed isn’t going to fully capture either.

councilIt was an incredibly long night going into 2 in the morning, with a lengthy line up of public speakers, including myself, SM Next Advisory Board Members Juan Matute and Carter Rubin, and Cynthia Rose representing local bike advocacy group Santa Monica Spoke (which has pushed for bicycling facilities for the area since its inception), in support of the plan’s direction.

There were also a number of residents who felt the plan should be scaled back further than it already has been from earlier iterations, often worried about traffic or demanding more certainty on creating new park space than the provisions that were already in the plan.

Asuka Hisa (mastermind behind the Tour da Arts) spoke for the Santa Monica Museum of Art, located in the Bergamot Complex , in support of the plan and the process that arrived at the final proposals, and in support of the conservation zone to preserve the arts and cultural facilities at the Bergamot Art Complex. There were former planning commissioners, a former mayor, property and gallery owners, and others who all came out to speak on various points, support for the plan, or changes they wanted to see. It was a packed room representing a wide variety of interests in shaping the future of the area around the coming Expo Line station.

Read More at Santa Monica Next

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SaMo City Council Considers Plan for Bergamont, at the End of Expo Phase II, Next Week.

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Construction progress at the future Bergamot Station rail platform as of late May. Progress is a little further along now, and more concrete laid today.

This next coming Tuesday, the Bergamot Area Plan is going to the city council for possible adoption. The Bergamot Area Plan, is one of the key pieces of the Land Use and Circulation Element (LUCE) general plan. The plan scope area is at the heart of the arts and commercial office centers of the eastern end of the city, and which is soon to have train service again in a few years.

No other part of the city is slated for as much possible change as the Bergamot Area, which has at it’s middle  a large abandoned factory at the former Papermate site, along with a number of large surface parking lots that could feature other possible land uses. There are internal parking lot access roads today, that could eventually become new street connections with the subdividing of large “super blocks” such as the Papermate site.

Part of the balance act in passing the LUCE was that new development would be concentrated in the Expo Line corridor to preserve the scale of the historically low rise residential zones of Santa Monica, and to mitigate against the possibility of associated car trip growth. A number of other policies and TDM (transit demand management) strategies are to be employed to keep to the LUCE goal of “no new net trips”.

For more information, visit Santa Monica Next.

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SaMo’s Michigan Ave. Greenway Project Could Include Cycle Tracks, But Should It?

Barbara Fillet speaks before the planning commission. Fillet is a long time local resident of the project corridor, a bike advocate, and on the Spoke Steering Committee and Santa Monica Next Advisory Committee.

Barbara Fillet speaks before the planning commission. Fillet is a long time local resident of the project corridor, a bike advocate, a member of the Spoke Steering Committee and Santa Monica Next Advisory Committee.

Last week, Santa Monica held two meetings for the Michigan Avenue Neighborhood Greenway proposal, following an earlier presentation to Santa Monica Spoke. I’ve now seen the latest developments on this project presented and discussed 3 separate times to different audiences.

Currently, three different primary design directions are proposed, and for now have been presented somewhat as separate concepts (although I think parts of all 3 may be useful for different contexts along the scope area). These concepts revolved around what I call neighborhood scale roundabouts (called traffic circles in the presentation), what planners have called “slow speed intersections” (features from the recent Longfellow St. redo that I wrote on last year were used as examples), and a cycle-track or protected bikeway facility.

There are also treatments that might accompany any of these concepts to further calm traffic or reduce traffic volume such as chicanes to add curves to the path of travel, or diverters that allow bike travel through but force or block turn movements from motorized vehicles.

At the community meeting on Thursday, attendance was disappointingly light compared with the widely attended first workshop. Most people present supported the plans and ideas, but it also wasn’t enough of a crowd to gauge how the larger community might feel. Hopefully, the much more advertised (the event will soon have door hangers all over the neighborhood) and bigger onsite workshop coming up on the 21st of September will be more broadly attended to get a variety of feedback.

In the planning commission discussion Wednesday, I was somewhat surprised to find nearly unanimous sentiment among commissioners for the cycle track approach, despite the political and logistical difficulties this would raise for parking. The current width of Michigan Ave. is such that a lane of parking would have to be removed to make a separated bikeway wide enough for two way travel, at least according to staff and project consultants from the firm Meléndrez, and in the pitches I’ve listened in on so far on the project.

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