Our Vision for Santa Monica Boulevard
Santa Monica Boulevard is one of the busiest crosstown streets on the Westside. Not only is it part of the region’s ‘backbone’ bicycle network, but it is a designated truck route and four Metro bus lines serve it. Not to mention the more than 50,000 vehicles that traverse it every day. Regardless of travel mode this road should get us where we’re going. But because the Beverly Hills segment of North Santa Monica Boulevard is engineered primarily for motoring, by design it puts non-motor road users in harm’s way.
We now have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to remake the boulevard into a ‘complete street‘ for Beverly Hills – a thoroughfare that accommodates walkers, riders and drivers. Over the next two+ years, Beverly Hills will thoroughly reconstruct the boulevard down to the gravel. Read more about the project itself at bottom.
Here’s the bad news: Beverly Hills City Council has just elected to reconstruct Santa Monica Boulevard much as it is today. That means riders will enjoy no separate bicycle lane on a corridor that begs for one. And a corridor that federal and state departments of transportation agree should have them.
Despite ongoing Council and staff resistance to planning for multimodal mobility generally, and on Santa Monica in particular, ‘complete streets’ supporters developed a proposal that we called the ‘Beverly Hills Greenway.’ Our proposal would achieve the project’s broadest objective (to create a world-class boulevard for Beverly Hills) while making tomorrow’s boulevard safe for all road users. We called it a win-win.
The ‘Beverly Hills Greenway’
Developed with the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, our proposal envisions a boulevard wide enough to accommodate bicycle lanes while maintaining the integrity of the adjacent Beverly Gardens Park. It would add green space to the boulevard along most of its wider segment in order to compensate for additional width needed to make the boulevard a uniform width (we proposed 62 feet).
This is a no-net-loss proposal that would maintain the same traffic volume for motorists while taking riders out of their way via state-approved bicycle lanes. The Greenway would separate motor from non-motor traffic and moot concerns about the state’s new safe-passing law. And bicyclists who ride the corridor will feel safer outside of the vehicle flow. As we see it, 62 feet is enough for a world-class street!
We brought our proposal to City Council in January of 2015 with some precedent: last September City Council created a Santa Monica Boulevard Blue Ribbon Committee of 15 appointed residents to receive public input. The committee was charged with receiving public input and nearly 200 members of the public addressed the committee (and more than 90% supported adding bicycle lanes to the boulevard). (Read our meeting recaps.)
When it came time to decide how to design the boulevard, City Council took a different perspective on bicycle lanes for Santa Monica. On July 21st, just as we expected, a split council said that Beverly Hills needs no bicycle lane on North Santa Monica Boulevard. In the majority were Mayor Julian Gold and councilmembers Willie Brien and Nancy Krasne. They evinced real genuine concern for riders. If you’re disappointed with their approach to their responsibility to provide for all road users’ safety, you can contact the entire City Council by email at firstname.lastname@example.org (or call 310-285-1013 with your comments) about that decision.
What about that ‘Gateway’ concept that we brought to City Council in January? No more was said about it; the concept simply died a quiet death like so many progressive ideas in Beverly Hills.
Bicycle Lanes, We Hardly Knew Ye!
With Council’s decision we come to an end with our multi-year campaign to secure safer transit on this key regional ‘backbone’ corridor through state-approved bicycle lanes. But the demise of the bicycle lanes hardly brings an end to our campaign for a safer boulevard. We’re currently pressing the city to make passage safe for riders during the long and treacherous construction phase. Just witness the conditions the westbound rider encounters today – and construction hasn’t even started on this massive project!
We’ve recommended traffic mitigation measures like other cities deploy in order to keep riders safe. But to date we find no partner in Beverly Hills City Hall: transportation officials like Susan Healey Keene and Aaron Kunz insists on giving advocates the runaround and giving riders short shrift where safety is concerned. Stay tuned!
About the Santa Monica Boulevard Reconstruction Project
What is it? This
$12 $35 million Santa Monica Boulevard project will reconstruct the boulevard between West Hollywood to Century City. The redesign will retain today’s four travel lanes (accommodating 55,000 cars on average daily according to traffic counts) and will probably include a landscaped median.
How could the corridor be made safer? To make this corridor safe for all who would use it regardless of mode, the new design should reflect the principles of ‘complete streets,’ which means crosswalks safer for pedestrians, intersections engineered for safe passage by bicycle, and, most important, state-approved bicycle lanes along its full length.
When will this project commence? It’s already underway. We are well into the second of three project phases: development of the design. Next comes engineering and construction. Find project documents in our project documents library or consult the city’s project page. (Warning: on the city’s site you will find scant information about this project and what is there is often outdated information because the city doesn’t care enough about what you think to make it worth its while to inform you.)
Here you will find the relevant project documents and supporting material that you won’t find on the city’s own project page. Let’s start with our own meeting recaps (and related posts) and then work down to documents that suggest the policy and history contexts for this project.
Our Project Meeting Recaps
- November 7, 2013 Blue-Ribbon Committee meeting recap
- Santa Monica Boulevard Tour #1 Recap
- December 10, 2013: Blue-Ribbon Committee meeting recap
- January 8, 2014: Blue-Ribbon Committee meeting recap
- January 22, 2014: Blue-Ribbon Committee meeting recap
- March 4, 2014: City Council meeting recap
- December 2, 2014: City Council Punts: Bike Lanes Deferred Again
- January 7, 2015: News Flash! City Council Keeps Bike Lanes on the Table
- July 21, 2015: Say Goodbye to Santa Monica Boulevard Bike Lanes
Other Santa Monica Boulevard Reconstruction project-related posts:
- City Council Study Session: Complete Streets Mentioned (4/7/12)
- City Releases Draft SM Blvd. Reconstruction RFP (4/16/12)
- Council’s Agenda for Tuesday: SM Blvd Reconstruction (9/6/13)
- Council Hears Santa Monica Boulevard Options (9/11/13)
- Beverly Hills Calls for Public Input on SM Blvd Project (10/28/13)
- Beverly Hills Community Survey: Where’s the Validity?
- Will Complete Streets Become the Law of the Land? (8/4/13)
- A Dozen Reasons to Support Bicycle Lanes for Santa Monica Boulevard (12/8/13)
- Another Dozen Reasons to Support Bicycle Lanes for Santa Monica (1/18/14)
- What We Can Do Today About Santa Monica Boulevard (6/3/2014)
- Santa Monica Boulevard Update (6/27/14)
- Beverly Hills Chamber Addresses SM Blvd Bike Lanes (8/11/14)
- Santa Monica Blvd Recap & Update (8/13/14)
- Death Blow to SM Blvd Lanes Likely Tomorrow (12/1/14)
- Santa Monica Boulevard Meetup This Monday (12/18/14)
- Recapping the Recappers: How Local Media Covered SM Blvd (1/9/15)
- Santa Monica Boulevard Lanes Returns to Council (7/17/15)
City Project Documents
- City’s DRAFT request for proposals for Santa Monica Boulevard (4/17/12)
- City’s request for proposals for Santa Monica Boulevard (1/24/13)
- Psomas Santa Monica Blvd proposal
- Santa Monica Boulevard project goals PowerPoint (9/10/13)
- Meeting #1 agenda November 7, 2013
- Meeting #1 city’s minutes
- Meeting #2 agenda December 10, 2013
- Meeting #2 city’s minutes
- Meeting #3 agenda January 8, 2014
- Psomas meeting #3 Memo
- Psomas meeting #3 Memo attachment
- Committee meeting #3 city’s minutes (not distributed!)
- Meeting #4 agenda January 22, 2014
- Psomas meeting #4 memo
- Psomas meeting #4 memo exhibits
City Staff Reports (most recent first)
- Santa Monica Blvd reconstruction staff report (7/21/15)
- Santa Monica Blvd reconstruction staff report (1/6/15)
- Santa Monica Blvd reconstruction staff report (12/2/14)
- Santa Monica Boulevard reconstruction cost staff report (5/20/14)
- Santa Monica Blvd Reconstruction staff report (4/1/14)
- Santa Monica Blvd Reconstruction staff report (3/8/14)
- Blue Ribbon Committee recommendations staff report (3/8/14)
- Blue Ribbon Committee Formation staff report (10/15/13)
- Psomas contract staff report (6/4/13)
- Public Outreach Options staff report (9/10/13)
- Santa Monica Blvd Reconstruction staff report (9/21/10)
- Public Outreach Options staff report (9/1013)
- General Plan Circulation Element (2010)
- Bicycle Master Plan (1977)
- Vision 2025 sustainability report (2003)
- Sustainable City Plan (2009)
- General Plan white paper: Santa Monica Boulevard Corridor (No. 3, March 2006)
- LACBC proposal for Santa Monica Blvd bicycle lanes (2009)
- Santa Monica Boulevard Blue-Ribbon Committee Roster
- Aaron Kunz, Director of Transportation (Beverly Hills)
- Susan Healey Keene, Director of Community Development (Beverly Hills)
- Michael Meyer, transportation planner (Iteris)
- Sean Vargas, Project Principal (Psomas)
- Jeff Chess, Senior Project Manager (Psomas)
Afterward: The Boulevard’s History
Let’s understand how Santa Monica Boulevard moved Angelenos over the past century. Most recently it was State Highway 2. Long before Beverly Hills took control of it in 2005, however, the corridor had languished under the state’s DOT. Quick patches sufficed for maintenance and potholes proliferated. City stewardship has proven no better: potholes and storm grates pose regular collision hazards for those who ride.
Prior to its ignominy as a bike-unfriendly Hwy 2, Santa Monica Boulevard was known as the terminal segment of the famous Route 66 that once linked Chicago to Santa Monica. All that remains of that old road in Beverly Hills are a few commemorative signs, but there is a movement afoot to memorialize that history.
The Pacific Electric’s Western Division once ran streetcars down the future boulevard. In fact, our city thrived as the junction of two lines that together anchored Beverly Hills into a regional Southern California rail network.
The first station occupied the northwest corner of Crescent & Little Santa Monica, across from City Hall. Once post office construction commenced, the station was moved a block west, to between Beverly and Canon, as seen here from Santa Monica North looking southwest.
These streetcars moved two million passengers annually through Beverly Hills before passenger service was stopped in the early 1950s!
Long before Route 66 and the PE, the Los Angeles Pacific, a predecessor rail corporation, ran a ‘balloon’ excursion train (“four double tracks to the Pacific Ocean”) through what was then called ‘Morocco Junction’ (as depicted in the map to the right). It is known today as Beverly Hills.
But Santa Monica Boulevard today betrays none of that distinguished history. We see a multimodal boulevard as our “once in a lifetime” opportunity to honor its rich transportation history. Remember, multimodal mobility is not just an historical footnote for this corridor; it can be our future too.