Santa Monica Boulevard Reconstruction

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.

Santa Monica Boulevard looking east to WilshireWe 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 – without a separate bicycle lane on a regional corridor that begs for one. More, this corridor is just the kind that federal and state guidance says should have bike lanes. But this latest action is no surprise; Beverly Hills City Council and Community Development Department officials have resisted planning for multimodal mobility (no matter that our city’s own plans encourage it).

The ‘Beverly Hills Greenway’

We ‘complete streets’ supporters presented a proposal to City Council that we call the ‘Beverly Hills Greenway.’ Our proposal envisioned a world-class Santa Monica Boulevard. That is precisely the vision once expressed by city leaders for the corridor. The ‘Greenway’ (developed with the support of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition) describes a boulevard wide enough to accommodate bicycle lanes while maintaining the integrity of adjacent Beverly Gardens Park. In fact, our proposal would add additional green space along most of its length.

Beverly Hills Greenway profile

© Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition

Ours is a no-net-loss of parkland proposal that not only meets the neighbors’ concerns about the park, but would take riders out of the traffic flow and maintain today’s vehicular volume too. That’s a win-win-win. Most important for riders, the Greenway separates non-motor traffic entirely to meet the spirit of the state’s new safe-passing law. And it also reflected the recommendation of the city’s Santa Monica Boulevard Blue Ribbon Committee to expand the boulevard and stripe bicycle lanes.

But Beverly Hills City Council took a different view: on July 21st, just as we expected, a split City Council chose not to include bicycle lanes on North Santa Monica Boulevard. No more was said about the Gateway concept that we had presented to City Council in January. It simply died a quiet death like so many progressive ideas in Beverly Hills.

Bicycle Lanes, We Hardly Knew Ye!

City Council’s decision effectively brought to an end our multi-year campaign to secure bicycle lanes for North Santa Monica Boulevard. But hardly brings an end to our campaign for a safer corridor. We’re currently pressing the city to make passage safe for riders during the long and treacherous construction phase.

Santa Monica Blvd at Hilton construction: no mitigation for riders!

Santa Monica Blvd during construction: the gantlet that offers no refuge for riders!

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 Susan Healey Keene and Aaron Kunz insist on giving riders short shrift where safety is concerned and giving us advocates the runaround when we demand better.

About the Santa Monica Boulevard Reconstruction Project

Santa Monica blvd project thumbnail mapWhat 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.)

Project Documents

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

Other Santa Monica Boulevard Reconstruction project-related posts:

City Project Documents

City Staff Reports (most recent first)

Policy Context

Key Contacts

Other Resources

Afterward: The Boulevard’s History

Santa Monica Boulevard conditionsLet’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.

Pacific Electric at Beverly Hills Station #2

Pacific Electric station at Beverly Hills circa 1925.

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!

Los Angeles Pacific Baloon Route map smallLong 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.

Recent Posts

Qataris Behaving Badly? Let’s Focus on the Homegrown ‘Sheikhs’

Qatari scofflaw and his Ferrari

The infamous Qatari scofflaw and his Ferrari as ‘captured’ by Adam Bornstein.

What’s more ridiculous than wasting ink on the now-departed Qatari sheikh who hot-rodded around Beverly Hills this August? The fact that no ink is spilled about everyday reckless driving tolerated by city policymakers and police officials. Forget Mideast sheikhs behaving badly in their Ferraris and such; we’re got a homegrown haute bourgeoisie who feel entitled to spin around at high speeds on quiet residential streets in off-the-shelf sports cars. And they garner nary a glance from the cops. For come sunset, there is no traffic enforcement in Beverly Hills.

When was the last time you read in the local media about reckless driving here in Beverly Hills? You probably never have. And you wouldn’t until, say a Qatari national runs some stops signs in his eye-catching coach. And only then you’ll read about it if it’s captured on video. But get it on tape and you may well hear officials proclaim their “outrage” at such bad behavior. Here’s the new Beverly Hills Police Chief Dominick Rivetti’s statement from his press conference:

The City of Beverly Hills is outraged about recent incidents of reckless driving on our streets. The Police Department has zero tolerance for unsafe driving, which seriously endangers the lives and property of others. Regardless of who you are, who you know or where you are from. The Beverly Hills Police Department has a reputation of applying the law equally. – Dominick Rivetti, BHPD Chief

Now, as far as we recall, this is the first reckless driving press release (let alone a companion standalone press conference) to address the problem.

Yet this department statement packs no fewer than four disingenuous assertions into its first paragraph alone. The first is the “outrage.” Our police department rarely exhibits much concern about reckless driving or the toll taken by crash injuries. Every month, for example, the department dispatches a supervisor to brief the city’s Traffic and Parking Commission on police department performance. But faced with crash figures that won’t decline, everyone seems to collectively shrug. As the numbers are perfunctorily recited there is no outrage nor even a glimmer of curiosity about why crashes happen. Not even the occasional traffic fatality merits “outrage.” It’s business as usual for the commissioners and the cops.

Second, the police department appears to have a very high tolerance indeed for unsafe driving. Stand at any major corner in Beverly Hills and watch as drivers run the red light. It happens at every single change of the traffic signal. We bet that every pedestrian has a story about nearly being struck in a crosswalk as a car (or three)  plow through well after the red.

After a few near-death experiences of our own we communicated to City Council actual “outrage” about the dangers we face as pedestrians. But we never even received a response. Here’s an excerpt:

While walking home with an armful of groceries tonight at 6:10 I was nearly struck by an westbound driver running the red light at the Wilshire-Canon intersection. I was midway across the curb lane at this signalized intersection, having stepped off the north curb well into my green signal. Suddenly a driver passed though and swerved into the #1 lane to avoid me. I’d earlier discussed with councilmember Krasne the hazards at this very intersection after a similar close call. In both cases, it occurred on a weekday at about 6pm and the near-miss margin was about a foot or so. (Read more)

And third, Beverly Hills is all about who you know and where you are from. Read our local newspapers; they’re all about mapping the social networks that prop up the husbanding of privilege by the boldface names in our small town. Moreover, whatever your problem you are more likely to garner officials’ attention if you live north of Santa Monica Boulevard and come to them with a #NorthOfSantaMonica problem.

And last, I don’t think that Beverly Hills Police Department can seriously claim a reputation for an equitable application of the law. While the cops recently took flak for detaining in handcuffs an African-American man for six hours because, as a spokesman said, “he fit the description” of a suspect, things have improved. But Throughout the 1990s the department faced lawsuits over pretext stops of African-American and Latino drivers. One was a state senator; others were lower-profile. To settled one suit the city established a Human Relations Commission to receive complaints. As always, “The Beverly Hills Police Department deeply regrets the inconvenience” as the spokesman says.

Reckless Driving Gets a Pass

It seems like reckless driving and excessive speeding simply get a pass in Beverly Hills. It is viewed by policymakers, police officials and the media alike as akin to the air that we breathe: so ordinary as to demand no particular comment. You won’t find a word about it (or street safety more broadly) in either of our two local weekly papers. It’s as if we simply gave up the fight for safe streets!

For example, when the Traffic and Parking Commission receives each month the most recent crash injury and citation stats from BHPD, no commissioner follows up with a comment on, or question about, the continuing toll taken by crashes. None asks, How are crash injuries trending? Where are we relative to last year? Are we making progress?

Fatalities in Beverly Hills highlighted in a table of crash injuries January to August 2014

Data compiled by the Beverly Hills Police Department as provided to the Traffic and Parking Commission in the monthly report.

This year to date, our small city where 35-mph and 25-mph speed limits is the rule witnessed no fewer than two auto-occupant crash deaths (one each in May and June) and in August a pedestrian lost his life in a fatal hit-and-run on Crescent (just a block from City Hall). But no commissioner has asked what can be done to mitigate the harm of 435 crash injuries or the 146 (!) hit-and-runs logged by police in 2014. Instead this commission (as always) is more focused on parking permits and tour buses.

Table of cyclist injuries in Beverly Hills 2008-2014

Data compiled by the Beverly Hills Police Department as provided to the Traffic and Parking Commission in the monthly report.

Proportion of cyclist injuries chart (2008-2014)You’ll never hear the Traffic and Parking Commissioner Chair Lester Friedman ask about the 48 injured cyclists who last year filed a police report, or wonder whether the number of cyclist injuries is on the increase. (It is.)

It is not that nobody is talking about it. We’ve appeared before the commission several times to draw attention to the magnitude of the harm. We’ve even aggregated seven years of BHPD data and analyzed the trends because no city staffer ever has. But nobody has come calling for the analysis.

Call it willful disinterest: neither City Hall nor the media seem much interested in this story unless a Qatari is behind the wheel. While cities around Beverly Hills make ‘safe streets’ a rhetorical objective if not a policy pivot, here in Beverly Hills the silence about the harm inflicted by reckless drivers is deafening.

Faded crosswalks at Wilshire and SM Blvd in 2015

It is not only reckless driving that gets a pass. Degraded facilities like these faded crosswalks at Wilshire and Santa Monica Boulevard only increase the danger for cyclists, pedestrians and motorists. This is one of the region’s worst intersections for safety, according to the Los Angles Times. Yet the city is in no hurry to repair it.

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