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Santa Monica Reviewing “Safe Route” Plans for Edison Language Academy
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By Lookout Staff

March 16, 2017 -- After months of meeting with worried parents and others, the City of Santa Monica is looking at new designs City planners think can make it safer for neighbors and children who walk or bike to and from Edison Language Academy.

Under review by the City are “refined” plans meant to protect pedestrians and cyclists from speeding as they try negotiating the area around the school, located at 2402 Virginia Avenue.

Edison is a total immersion English-Spanish school in the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD). Its serves about 450 students from kindergarten to fifth grade.

As it now stands, City staff is proposing physical changes to four locations in the vicinity of the school: Delaware Avenue and 22nd Street, Kansas Avenue mid-block near the Edison Language Academy, 27th Street and Kansas Avenue and Stewart Street and Kansas Avenue.

At three of the intersections, the City would install curb extensions and marked crossings, while at the Kansas Avenue mid-block location, a raised crosswalk is proposed.

“These improvements encourage safe walking and biking by shortening crossing distances and improving the visibility of pedestrians and cyclists,” a report given to the council at its February 28 meeting said.

The report also said a fifth project, at Pico Boulevard and 30th Street/Dorchester Avenue, is on hold while the City continues to meet with the public for input.

Near the Dorchester tunnel, the area is set to receive more design options for a “two-stage crossing for people on bikes and walking,” staff said.

Funding is coming from a “State Safe Routes to School” grant from the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) and is part of a more comprehensive program the City is developing for schools in the city.

Reaction to the City’s Edison proposal isn’t universally supportive.

In letters to the council, neighbors acknowledged they would need to cross busy Pico as they attempt to wind their way to Kansas. But they said that was not a primary concern.

The “traffic calming” measures being considered, such as curb bump outs, a median and traffic circles, do slow traffic but are a worthwhile trade-off.

“I have no problem with them since we should all be able to agree that no life is worth risking for an extra few seconds a car might have to get down Pico,” said Stacy Gruenloh, a parent.

“Drivers only need to manage their time better if they choose to drive but cyclists and pedestrians are risking their lives to do the right thing for their health and the community.”

“I talk to other parents who would like to walk or ride their children (and themselves) but they are too nervous,” she said.

But Elena Estrin, who said her she and her family have lived in the area for 35 years, complained she had only just learned of the City’s plans. And she wasn’t happy.

“Under the title of “Safe Routes to Schools,” the City plans to block our ability to safely access Pico Blvd. by putting an island in the middle of Pico Blvd. at the Pico/Dorchester intersection,” Estrin said.

“This proposal is being put forward under the guise of improving access to the Edison Language Academy, a ridiculous statement as Dorchester is not a street pedestrians or bike riders would use to travel to Edison Language Academy,” she said.

Residents, school personnel and parents raised concerns regarding speeding vehicles, visibility of pedestrians and vehicles and problems crossing the street near the school, prompting the City to create the Pico Michigan Avenue Neighborhood Greenway plan (MANGo) in 2014.

The idea behind MANGo is to create an “inviting neighborhood gathering and sustainable circulation space along Michigan Avenue and along adjoining street extensions like Virginia Avenue,” the City report said.

It said the greenway “creates a complete east-west connection on neighborhood streets for people walking and biking to school, City parks and local businesses.”

This would be achieved with the proposed use of landscaping, bike facilities, lighting and enhanced crosswalks -- all changes designed to slow down drivers, the report said.


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