Longfellow St. Redesign Borrows From Netherlands Approach

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.”

Color & Texture Are Used To Indicate Crossings. New Plants Are Drought Tolerant.

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.


  • Ubrayj02

    This sets a dangerous precedent: local cities restoring value in their communities. It means that all that land I bought in Lancaster is going to be worth a lot less.

    I would like to know how much this cost Santa Monica (generally), what type of maintenance costs this redesign represents over the lifetime of the stuff installed, and how it will affect home values in the area. If there are new home sales the city and county will benefit from re-assessed property taxes at a higher rate – and in the long run could potentially pay for itself or make the government a “profit”.

    That is my hope, at least.

    Also, it would be a good idea to host your images on Flickr instead uploading them to this Streetsblog site – you get better traffic on Flickr, and if you keyword and describe them well it will help others looking for images of streets done up in this fashion.

  • When I get a chance I’ll post the set, including a few I didn’t include here on flickr for anyone to check out and search for.

    I don’t have a full price tag on what it all cost, but I’m sure it will benefit property values, and while capital up front was likely a little pricy, maintenance costs should be improved due to better water retention in an area lacking much curb drainage and less asphalt coverage.

    The whole treatment seen as a whole is quite pleasant, I do think a little something extra in traffic calming to replace stop signs would be the perfect cherry on top. The treatments also extend around the corners of the adjacent streets a tiny bit creating a sense of flowing into and out of the area, especially nice directing toward Ozone Park. This also establishes a new precedent of neighborhood branding, allowing crosswalks, street signs and posts to be of a different color or style from the citywide uniform.

  • Can anyone tell us – how many feet wide are the car lanes?

    It might be a decent solution/design for Southern California (that’s sort of like saying a low body count for serial killers – faint praise) – better than most… but I worry that it has more street width, more straight-away lines, and more car parking than the Netherlands, all of which I think may undermine how it reads. With plenty of width and parking, does it still tell road users that the car is the priority? I don’t know any reason why these lanes should be more than 7 or 8 feet wide – enough for very slow-moving cars. On woonerfs it seems like there are more visual cues (ie: seating/benches, playgrounds) that the street is for people. Also, woonerf photos I’ve seen have included chicanes – so cars don’t see an uninterrupted visual straight-away.
    I worry that we suburban Americans are so used to excessive massive freeway-aspiring roads on steroids that we think that a mildly-excessive road is the goal… it’s a step in the right direction… but I don’t think it’s quite a “sustainable living street.” The photos make it seem not all that welcoming…. clearly no living soul found it worth lingering in (other than one photographer.)Sorry to be a critic – I want to go and see it and maybe I’ll perceive it differently. I don’t live there. I wasn’t part of the process… and maybe this design is a big enough step in the right direction to solve problems there.

  • The exact dimensions I don’t have, and the layout I was able to find
    quickly online didn’t make it clear. It is narrow enough that for two
    cars to pass each other, they have to slow and ease over a little, especially larger vehicules.

    I consider it a step in the right direction toward Netherland’s approaches, but we aren’t quite there just yet. Some involved had advocated elevating the intersections and removing stop signs, something I saw a lot when I got to visit France, and does wonders to slow things down. One subtle thing besides the brick, is bumpy strips beyond the stop
    lines, so there is a tactile response to the driver when they are
    crossing a stop sign, and it is louder and more jarring if at speed. My understanding is the city is still considering other traffic calming approaches to add.

    Part of the impetus for the project was it was a dark uninviting corridor, and one people in the area felt attracted crime. Now it is both a lot prettier, and has pedestrian scale lighting. The hope is more “eyes on the street”, and a better connection to Ozone park.

    Though some of the things done in many woonerfs are not here, this is also a tiny 2 block stretch that T-bones at both ends, so there is no reason to drive on Longfellow but for local access, so it never had much traffic volume and there is little distance or reason to speed. Those innate characteristics of the street already lended it self to slower going, with more intensive things like chicanes being probably more investment than necessary to slow things down.

    The area was pretty empty in the pics, but I snapped the photos in a rush during a lunch break on a weekday, not the most active time for a small residential street, but I did see some folks walking about down the middle of the street as I was packing up. We’ll have to see how well uses mix when it is open for a while.

    About the parking, it is I would agree too much, but given adjacent apartments with little off street parking, to take out any more room for parking than they did would likely have been a deal breaker for a project that struggled to maintain a majority of local resident support over the long planning process and multiple delays and stalls this project went through.

  • El Barto

    This is pure communism taking over!!

  • Shelli

    I live right next to this street, and the redesign is wonderful.  I intentionally route my dog’s walks through this stretch because it looks so nice, and it seemed to do a great job of slowing runoff into Lincoln after last week’s rains.  It is wide enough for cars to pass one another, even with cars parked on both sides (although the other commenters are correct, a driver does need to slow a bit).  I’d love to see more streets like this.

  • Geraldo’s Mustache

    If you don’t like the left coast flava, move to Montana buy some guns and ride free on dirt roads to your hearts content.

  • Evan


  • Barbara Filet

    Great coverage, Gary, for an innovative street design. I want to see more streets like it. Next time, though, get some people walking or biking on the street, to illustrate what it is all about. That is tough, I know, when you are working most of the day..

  • Does anyone know what the final touches on this project were? I had seen a lot of these changes quite a while ago, but I know that news of the redesign has been in a few places this week, so I’m wondering what the end of the project was. 

  • Anonymous

    Thank heaven this finally was completed! Now other redesigns will have this real-life example to follow, which will influence other future designs. Betcha other neighborhoods will start demanding similar renovations!

  • This is Michael King, the project designer from Nelson Nygaard, the lead consultants.  We are pleased that the proejct has been well received.  Concerning the street width, it is as narrow as possible.  We tested it with the fire department so their equipment would fit and make the turns.  The number of parking spaces was agreed upon with the community and we went through a number of iterations.  If you have more question, just let us know.

  • what is the lane width? (in feet or meters)

  • Great job! Do you know where we can check out the plans? 

  • Jim Evans

    What happens with the energy collected by the panels? Just the pedestrian LED lights?


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