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SaMo Councilmember Brock Yanks Motion Calling for More Info/Options on 17th Street Bike/Ped Project

3:31 PM PDT on June 14, 2023

A quiet early morning on 17th Street. Photo : Damien Newton

At last evening’s meeting of the Santa Monica City Council, Councilmember Phil Brock pulled his motion concerning the 17th Street protected bikeway that Santa Monica Next covered earlier. Both Councilmember Jesse Zwick and Mayor Gleam Davis separately took issue with the two major components of the motion. Brock, who clearly did not want the 17th Street issue to turn into a repeat of the debacle in Culver City, pulled the motion before Council debate was completed.

Before the meeting, Council inboxes were flooded by emails generated by dueling action alerts. The first by Santa Monica Families for Safe Streets was entitled, “Gelvy needs us to fight for him” and told the story of an apparently drunk driver who crashed into a Santa Monica teenager, who now faces a leg amputation as a consequence. The other was by residents of the Mid-City neighborhood and was entitled, “Please remove and stop new bike lanes.” 

For what it’s worth, the pro-bike alert generated more emails, which may have surprised some Councilmembers who are accustomed to hearing more from more conservative neighborhood activists than younger bicycle and pedestrian safety advocates.

As he already told Next, Brock stated that concerns that he was seeking to radically alter or even remove aspects of the project were overblown.

“All I really wanted was in a month or two months for staff to come back, no study, no major report,” Brock stated. “It could just be an info item to say the project is done and we think that we’ve alleviated all of the residents’ concerns.”

Later, he stated that he thinks these sorts of informational updates should be commonplace for every infrastructure project that impacts residents lives, “I think there should be something like that for every project the city does.”

Zwick took issue with the idea presented in the motion that it would be possible to, “enhance vehicular movements while not compromising bicycle and pedestrian safety” at the intersections where there are bulb outs because it denies the simple truth that in transportation projects there are often tradeoffs. In this case, the tradeoffs are reduced vehicle speeds in favor of safer streets for bicyclists, pedestrians, and indeed drivers and their passengers.

“There’s an inherent contradiction that has frustrated a lot of the community,” Zwick stated. 

“Enhancing vehicle movement inherently endangers bicycles and pedestrians. Dutch crossing designs are designed to make a tighter turning radius to make cars slow down. If cars are having trouble making that turn, they’re going too fast.”

Zwick compared the situation to someone asking for physical barriers to be placed on parts of the pier near the parking structures and access points to make certain that drivers don't crash their cars into crowded pedestrian areas. Brock and other councilmembers had discussed asking staff for a study of this earlier in the evening.

Davis took issue with the idea that it’s a good use of staff resources to have them report back on every infrastructure project. To make the point that there’s already a lot of information on the project, she had staff post images from the city’s website about the 17th street project on a screen behind the council dais. 

“We live in a limited resource environment,” Davis stated. “…so we always have to ask our questions that do we want our staff writing reports…or do we want to spend money on the things that people want us to spend money on?”

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