By Olin Ericksen
March 22 -- Two lanes instead of four. Diagonal
parking instead of field space. Even park benches and bike
paths where the road now runs. These could become common features
along a stretch of Ocean Park Boulevard and dramatically change
the busy transit corridor for decades to come.
City officials presented the concepts during a meeting Tuesday
at Virginia Avenue Park attended by some 30 residents of the
budding business and residential area, who for years have
demanded changes to the boulevard from 14th to roughly 18th
The concepts -- which would change the heavily traveled roadway
into a slower-moving, pedestrian and bike-friendly route --
can be mixed and matched by the public, the City Council and
traffic engineers in coming months.
"Ocean Park Boulevard is a place where people have had
concerns for a long time," said Lucy Dyke, the City's
transportation manager, who after years of interactions was
on a first-name basis with many at the meeting.
Residents asked pointed questions and placed comments directly
on several large aerial pictures of the area, which is home
to several elementary and middle schools and Santa Monica
College, whose students pose a major impact on nearby traffic
While some asked about parking and voiced concern over staff's
recommendation not to place signals at 16th and 18th streets,
perhaps the biggest change under consideration is to cut 10
feet from each side of the roadway, reducing the number of
lanes from four to two with a dedicated turn lane in the middle.
If implemented, Ocean Park Boulevard's streetscape and sidewalks
could one day look more like Main Street or Montana Avenue
to the hundreds of shoppers, businesses employees, students
and residents who use it daily, Dyke told residents.
"If we conform (Ocean Park Boulevard) to be one lane
each way, we could have space for a lot of things that people
have said they want," Dyke said.
Traffic engineers suggested extending the two lanes -- a
feature of all the proposed concepts -- west of 14th Street
all the way to Lincoln Boulevard.
Reducing the number of lanes to two would slow traffic on
the boulevard, which is estimated to carry 17,000 and 19,000
cars a day, experts said.
"Narrowing lanes down by two feet on both sides reduces
speed by two to three miles-per-hour total," said traffic
consultant Eric Shimizu, who helped design a similar plan
It would also reduce the number of choices drivers have,
especially at intersections where pedestrians have been injured
in a number of recent accidents with motorists, traffic experts
Having only one lane in each direction would discourage drivers
from switching lanes to avoid stopping behind a turning vehicle,
While reducing the number of lanes should help reduce driver
choices, it will not solve the problem, he said.
"The impatient drivers are not going to go away,"
In addition, the narrower street could actually increase
traffic, something that happened in Seattle, Shimizu said.
"I know it's counter-intuitive, but traffic volume actually
increased," he said.
While all for concepts reduce the number of lanes, they differ
in the way they incorporate diagonal parking and use center
The first option would use slim medians and keep parallel
parking on the north side of the street between 16th and 17th
Streets and in front of several businesses.
This could pave the way for benches and wider sidewalks,
offering a better pedestrian ambiance around the businesses,
The first option would also place diagonal parking on the
north side of Ocean Park Boulevard between 14th and 16th Streets.
The second option offer no diagonal parking and wider medians
as islands between 14th and 16th Streets.
The third option could be the most controversial, because
it would carve out about 10 feet of space for parking from
the John Adams Middle School field, which hosts several community
athletic events from soccer to baseball.
It also would provide the most parking on both the south
and north sides of Ocean Park through scores of diagonal parking
spots. There also would be diagonal parking on the north side
of the boulevard between 14th and 16th streets.
The fourth option provides diagonal parking on the north
side of the street between 14th and 16th streets, but none
between 16th and 17th streets. Sidewalks would again be extending
to allow for a more pedestrian-friendly ambience in front
Each of the options include dedicated bike lanes and keep
bus stops where they are, although they are expected to hold
up traffic. The use of medians in the center lane has been
known to slow emergency response vehicles, planners cautioned.
Also being considered are curb extensions, crosswalk designs
and traffic lights, as well as more parking meters and a shared
parking district in the alleys between 16th to 18th streets.
When came to the issue of installing traffic signals at key
intersections, traffic engineers and residents remained strongly
divided, as they have for years.
"Six different traffic engineers have looked at that
intersection and it doesn't warrant a signal," Dyke said
of a crossing on 18th Street which users flashers in a marked
crosswalk. "It's a lot of signals close together, and
it’s likely to increase traffic."
Traffic officials said they would take the community's input
from Tuesday’s meeting and add it to suggestions received
over coming weeks, before they take a final set of concepts
to the City Council for final approval.
To weigh in on the Ocean Park Boulevard redesign, write,
call, fax or email the City's Transportation Management Division
1685 Main Street, Room 115,
PO Box 2200, Santa Monica, California, 90407