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Survey Results Show Dueling Visions for Santa Monica's Michigan Avenue Greenway

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark

Harding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP  law firm
Harding, Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

Pacific Park, Santa Monica Pier

By Jason Islas
Staff Writer

December 23, 2013 -- While residents of Santa Monica's Pico Neighborhood mostly agree that a new bike-friendly corridor down Michigan Avenue is a good idea, the details could prove more divisive.

A recent survey by the Pico Neighborhood Association (PNA) showed that residents of Santa Monica's historically poorest area supported City plans to transform the Michigan Avenue from the Bergamot Area to the beach into a “Greenway,” a stretch of road shared safely by bikes, pedestrians and cars.

With the initial project design slated to go before the City Council in February, the PNA said that residents have “roundly rejected” preliminary plans to put up barriers at 11th and Michigan Avenue to stem the flow of cut-through traffic -- around 4,200 vehicles a day -- using the corridor to get to the freeway.

But that's not entirely true, said local bike advocate Barbara Filet. Whereas the PNA said 95 percent of residents opposed car barriers at the intersection, Filet, who conducted the same survey found the opposite to be true, with 85 percent of residents supporting some sort of barricade that would allow pedestrian and bicycle traffic.

“That tells me that the... community is divided on the issue,” said Jason Kligier, the City planner heading outreach for the project.

Kligier said that means planners will have to consider ways other than a permanent barricade at the intersection to meet the community's goals: reducing the number of vehicle trips on the western end of  Michigan Avenue.

Since the area sees major upticks in vehicle traffic during peak commuting times, Kligier said, the City is now considering using traffic signs to prohibit cars from cutting down 11th Street and turning west onto Michigan Avenue, but at only certain times of day.

Signage is “cheap, easy to install and easy to change,” said Kligier.

The traffic barricades -- referred to as diverters -- aren't the only point of controversy with this project. City planners scrapped an idea for a cycle track along most of the Greenway.

Kligier said that at an event in September, where residents got a chance to see some of the proposed changes simulated on the street, about 66 percent of people said they wanted a cycle track if the City could do it without removing parking.

Planners still hope to build a cycle track along a small section of the Greenway adjacent to Santa Monica High School where, Kligier said, there isn't any parking currently.

Some -- Filet among them -- have pushed for more aggressive traffic-reduction measures to be included in the project.

“Greenways used to be called 'bicycle boulevards,'” she said. “But greenways facilitate not just bicycling but socializing outdoors for neighbors and all manner of active transportation: walking, running, skateboarding, and bicycling.”

Filet has pushed for diverters to be included in the Greenway plans, since “(a)ny method would be put in on a trial basis and results analyzed,” she said, adding that they are among the most effective ways to reduce traffic.

Still, the PNA recently endorsed the project partly because “the City has now assured the PNA that cycle tracks, traffic diverters and barricades are off the table,” according an official statement by the organization.

There's still time for stakeholders to weigh in, Kligier said. The project only has funding for its planning phase, which he said will continue at a January 7 meeting in Virginia Avenue Park's Thelma Terry Building.

For more information about the Michigan Avenue Greenway project, visit: Michigan-Avenue-Neighborhood-Greenway.

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