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Longfellow St. Redesign Borrows From Netherlands Approach

7:30 AM PDT on March 30, 2012

New Slow Street Design On Longfellow, Incorporating Sustainability Oriented Features.

This week marks another milestone in new approaches to street design in the city of Santa Monica. A two block segment of Longfellow St. receives a makeover, taking cues from the mixed use woonerf concept from the Netherlands. Longfellow St. had always been too narrow to include both street parking for adjacent apartments and sidewalks, making it an ideal candidate for promoting mixed street use. Its formally unappealing design and poor lighting was also felt by some to be a contributing factor to crime in the area. Now vehicle traffic is calmed with cues from new plants and textured surfaces.  Solar powered pedestrian scale lighting with LED bulbs were installed along the street. Other ideas are being considered for further traffic calming enhancements later, that would eliminate the need for traffic control signage all together.

Part of the aim of a woonerf, or what locals are calling “sustainable living street,” is that speeds are low and pedestrian and bicycle access is encouraged, allowing the shared street space to be negotiated without significant conflict. Another issue on this street due to the lack of curb delineation, was that it wasn’t always clear to those parking when they were blocking driveway access. Textured surfaces for parking rather than asphalt creates an obvious cue for where designated parking is allowed, and the design allows rain water retention.

The Longfellow St. redesign is the culmination of several years of collaboration of nearby residents, led by the Borderline Neighborhood Group with elected officials and staff from the city. The planning firm Nelson Nygaard, which has been instrumental in crafting the Santa Monica LUCE general plan, and other specific plans within the city, also consulted on the project. It was a 6 year process from initial proposals to completion with various ups and downs.

As Dennis Woods, Chair of the Borderline Neighborhood Group Improvement Committee, described to me, "it was difficult and very long process to get people on board and behind the vision and even more difficult to keep every one's spirits up with delay after delay... tenacity and think skin is a requirement."

Longfellow Street can now serve as a local model for making constrained and primarily local access streets function for everyone. This morning the Borderline Neighborhood Group hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony at the corner of Longfellow and Ozone, officially marking another step forward for Santa Monica.

The city is on a roll with new street design changes. In addition to the bike lanes mentioned a few weeks ago, new segments of bike lanes, climbing lanes or sharrows have popped up on 11th, 17th, 16th, and I’m sure others. It’s hard to keep up. The city also just corrected a formally flawed design where the bike lane on 11th Northbound approaching Wilshire Blvd. swerved into a right turn only lane. When I passed by recently, the old line was buffed out and a new one was stripped to the left of the turn lane. At a Santa Monica Spoke hosted ride around event with staff a couple months ago, a list of projects to be implemented in the next year was handed out. Though few were expecting just how quickly that list would start turning into changes on the streets.

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