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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.

expo_berga_

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.

Read more…

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Hurdles Remain for Malibu’s Efforts to Make the PCH More Safe, Welcoming to All Road Users

The PCH, main street in Malibu. Photo: Cool Caesar/WikiMedia

Last week, the City of Malibu released a draft study addressing safety issues on the 21 miles of Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) that runs through the city. The release coincided with the launch of an online survey to garner feedback from the public on a series of possible safety improvements.

The 65-page report was prepared by the Irvine-based consultant firm LSA Associates. It lists 80 potential safety issues and lists solutions in order of importance.  A list of all the strategies suggested in the report can be found at the bottom of the article.

The report’s proposed solutions are mostly about freeing the PCH somewhat from its car-dominated status, including the addition of 21 miles of bike lanes, adding parking meters to parts of the road, and adding more crosswalks and signage at unmarked crosswalks throughout the corridor. Improved access for disabled passengers at bus stops, and improved line-of-sight for drivers at some of the wavier parts of the road are also suggested. The PCH currently has seven lanes, two wide shoulders (sometimes used for parking) four mixed-use lanes, and a center turn lane.

“They’re really trying,” says Hans Laetz, a journalist and historian who is working on a book on the history of the PCH. “The $64,000 question is will the city council have the political will to do this. These will be some very very difficult issues for the City of Malibu.”

Laetz announced Malibu’s launch of this study on Streetsblog in 2011 and recently ran an unsuccessful campaign for City Council.

Things have changed in Malibu’s government since 2010, when Safety Commissioner Susan Tellem started a Facebook page begging the California Highway Patrol to target cyclists for tickets. Cyclists swarm to the PCH in many beach towns, drawn to the road itself for training, transportation or recreation.

For more, visit Santa Monica Next.

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A Quick Look at Next’s First Week, and an Offer to Do More in Your Community


Even if you’re completely disinterested in Santa Monica, I get video bombed near the 1:25 mark

(If you haven’t checked out the new site yet, stop by http://santamonicanext.org. If you want to help us out, you can donate through the Streetsblog L.A. or Santa Monica Next donation pages, our KickStarter, or just join us for the Streetsblog L.A./Santa Monica Next fundraiser on September 22.)

Santa Monica Next has now been up and running for a full week. We’re proud of our first separately-branded community news website and are excited to watch it grow. This week we’ve written a couple of times with news about our launch, ran a feature on our first event of the week, and published two unique news stories by Gary Kavanagh. The first reviewed the popular Tour da Arts. The second was a preview of service and farebox changes coming to the Big Blue Bus.

I know some of you have wondered why we chose Santa Monica first, and others want to know what they need to do convert their own blog into a Southern California Streets Initiative website. If you’re interested, here’s what we’re looking for before investing in a new website…

1) A writer who is regularly published, even if it’s on a personal blog, who understands Livable Streets issues
2) A writer comfortable confining their work for us to a specific geographic area
3) Some source of revenue, be it the ability to turn out people for a fundraiser or an advertiser/sponsor. We consider these websites professional journalism, and want to launch with clear expectations for an annual budget. I would note that this isn’t a way to support our non-profit. I am not making a dime off of Santa Monica Next (at least at this point) and have put a lot of work into it.
4) Someone who has some flexibility in their schedule. We’re not saying that you need to work on your site full-time, but to do it justice you will need to cover some public meetings and events.

If we agree to work together, we’ll help create the website, cover the first year of hosting fees, provide support with creating a Kick Starter Campaign and/or launch event, provide a template (the current SMN one is temporary while we develop a permanent template for all our non-Streetsblog websites), and help reach out to advertisers and sponsors. We can use the name of the larger organization to help attract inerns and other pro-bono writers, and our status as a federal and state recognized non-profit is a huge help in fundraising.

If this sounds like a good deal to you, and you meet our four qualifications, drop me an email at damien@streetsblog.org. I’d be happy to talk with you.

 

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Santa Monica: This Weekend Tour da Arts Vol. 5 & Spoke Meets To Talk Michigan Avenue Greenway

SMMOA Tour Da Arts

Photo (photos below) by Gary Kavanagh of the 2010 SMMoA Tour da Arts event.

This Sunday is the 5th edition of the annual Tour da Arts (11am to 5pm at Bergamot Station), put on by the Santa Monica Museum of Art. If you are unfamiliar with the event, it is the premiere mass bike ride meets arts, music and dance event of the year in Santa Monica. If you are in Santa Monica, or near by, or looking for an excuse to come out this way, come out, seriously.

It’s always among my favorite events of the year, and Asuka Hisa, the Director of Education and Public Programs for SMMoA, is a master mind at putting together an engaging cultural event, and this one is always family friendly as well, and tied to building local bike culture by connecting points and venues in the city by bike. C.I.C.L.E. and Santa Monica Spoke will be helping to ride lead, and the Bikerowave will be doing bike maintenance. More details, RSVP form (event is free), and an itinerary of performances are on SMMoA’s site here. Also, be sure to look out for the Santa Monica Next table at the starting point.

Tomorrow at 11 am at 502 Colorado community room, Santa Monica Spoke is holding a public meeting featuring a staff presentation on the Michigan Avenue Neighborhood Greenway proposal (I wrote about the first public workshop in March in the Pico Neighborhood here) with a chance to discuss and give input on ideas. The meeting will discuss other aspects of Bicycle Action Plan implementation and the Pedestrian Action Plan being drafted and other priorities for Spoke. More on all that can be found here.

SMMOA Tour Da Arts SMMOA Tour Da Arts SMMOA Tour Da Arts SMMOA Tour Da Arts SMMOA Tour Da Arts SMMOA Tour Da Arts

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Santa Monica Next Will Launch on Monday

On Monday, the Southern California Streets Initiative will launch Santa Monica Next, our first publication outside of Streetsblog Los Angeles. Gary Kavanagh will be the main writer and have editorial control over the content of the publication assisted by myself and Tyler Hakomori, a Santa Monica High School Senior who has been updating Streetsblog LITE during the summer.

But just because we’re ready to launch, doesn’t mean we can’t still use our help. There are several ways to give us the boost we need.

Donate to Our Kick Starter: Santa Monica readers out-donated Long Beach readers during our Spring Fundraiser Drive and Bike Center is already committed to being our first sponsor, but we still need help to (under) pay Kavanagh, cover the other costs of posting online, soliciting guest articles, and hosting the occasional event. The Kick Starter expires on August 25. Our goal is $1650. We are currently at $1291. We have $359 left to raise or we don’t get any of the money pledged.

Visit Us on Sunday: While Gary will be covering the Tour Da Arts for Monday’s first article, I’ll be manning a booth from 11-1 at the Tour. You can make a donation, buy a t-shirt, or just come over and say hello. Find out more at the Santa Monica Museum of Arts website. I’ll have a laptop and mobile hotspot, so if you donate at the Tour to Kick Starter, I can give you your reward in person.

Come to Our Fundraiser: On September 22 from 11 am to 3 pm, Juan and Sirinya will host a fundraiser to both celebrate the awards won by the Streetsblog L.A. team from the American Planning Association and Los Angeles Press Club and raise funds for the launch of Santa Monica Next. People can decide at the door which online magazine to sponsor. You can donate through the Kick Starter to pay admittance for the party. The party will feature food and drink, a raffle, great company, bike valet and a rooftop view of Santa Monica. We’ll post more details soon. Of course, we have a Facebook Page for that event too.

Join Our Social Media: We have a shell twitter account set up @SaMoNext and a Facebook page here. Join now to help us build our social media presence.

Send Us Suggestions: Is there someone who would be a great contributor? Is there a lead for a sponsor, funder or advertiser that we should know about? Is there a really hot story we don’t know about? Send ideas to  gary@santamonicanext.org or damien@santamonicanext.org.

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Making a Case to Phase Out “Beg Buttons” in Santa Monica’s Pedestrian Action Plan

A tagged over Santa Monica pedestrian button instruction plate. (Photo: Gary Kavanagh)

(We’re inching closer to the launch of Santa Monica Next. Read more about it here and here. Give us a Kick Start to help us get going, here. – DN)

Regulating and designing around the assumption everyone drives leads to highway expansions and parking garage build outs that make it easier and more convenient to drive. Despite temporary traffic relief, we frequently arrived back at the congestion situation that justified expanding before.

Our Santa Monica weekly column is supported by Bike Center in Santa Monica.

The assumptions we make influence the outcomes we get, and induced demand in highway building is frequently railed against by advocates of transportation reform. On the flip side of the driving assumptions that inform our land use and transportation policies, we also have a range of baked in assumptions in our infrastructure about how people won’t be walking or biking. When we do plan for walking, we still assume that the amount of walking isn’t very high.

Sometimes these assumptions are subtle and unquestioned, such as the very existence of pedestrian crossing push buttons at signalized intersections.

These devises are sometimes disparagingly referred to as “beg buttons” by many pedestrian activists because you are essentially having to ask for permission to have a crossing signal phase. Beg buttons are one of the more subtle means by which we degrade the urban environment for walking, and Streets.MN has a handy typological guide. The buttons exist for driver convenience, not walking convenience. The absence of an assumed pedestrian phase permits greater optimizations of green times for the prioritized vehicle travel direction. It took me a long while to realize this relationship, but now I take note of everywhere I see them, or don’t see them.

Within certain blocks or for portions of some streets in Santa Monica, we do assume an appropriate pedestrian crossing phase every cycle without buttons, mostly notably around the more tourist drawing downtown and promenade. One of the things about Washington D.C. that most impressed me as a city, was the distinct absence of beg buttons everywhere that I went all over the city, and intersection signals that all assumed people on foot would cross. This was consistent throughout my experience for nearly a week wandering around until finally finding a few beg buttons near the D.C. Union Station.

You become a lot more aware of how annoying certain aspects of the status quo are once you experience a place operating under differing paradigms. Sometimes a beg button is in a awkward spot to reach, sometimes you walk up and think the person in front of you hit, but had not, and you don’t want to reach across them to do it or presume they had not and tell them to. Then you end up missing an entire crossing phase. Read more…