Santa Monica Boulevard Reconstruction: Change
is Coming Was Supposed to Come to Beverly Hills!
Santa Monica Boulevard is one of the busiest crosstown streets on the Westside. Fifty thousand vehicles traverse it daily and no fewer than four Metro bus lines serve it. And it is a critical piece of the ‘backbone’ bicycle network that spans the region. Regardless of our choice of travel mode, this road gets many of us where we’re going.
As the Beverly Hills segment of Santa Monica Boulevard is engineered for motoring, perhaps it is most safely experienced from behind the wheel of a car. But it need not be so: with the planned reconstruction of the city’s 1.8 mile stretch of the blacktop, we have a “once in a lifetime opportunity” (as our project consultant Psomas put it) to remake this key corridor as a bike-friendly ‘complete street.’
But we won’t get that chance if our City Council caters to a small-but-vocal bunch of north-side NIMBYs still locked into 20th-century thinking. You can help make this boulevard safe for all road users. Read on!
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 would include improved, continental-style crosswalks; intersections re-engineered to facilitate safe passage by bicycle; and most important, state-approved class II bicycle lanes. None of this is rocket science: cities all around us are embracing complete streets as a means to reduce the harm that flows from crashes. City of Los Angeles has even embraced a ‘Vision Zero’ philosophy to eliminate all traffic-related deaths.
Beverly Hills can literally do our small part by making our 1.8 mile segment of Santa Monica Boulevard safe for those who walk, ride or drive.
When will this project commence? It’s already underway. We are well into the first of three project phases: the identification of a concept and the selection of design alternatives. Next the city will engineer to the concept, with construction in phase III to follow. You’ll find project documents posted in our project documents library (below) or consult the city’s project page where you’ll find scant documentation and outdated process information. (That’s what a million bucks for consultants buys these days.)
Where We Are Now: Stuck in Phase I
City Council last September created a Santa Monica Boulevard Blue Ribbon Committee of 15 appointed residents to receive public input. The committee was charged with receiving public input, discussing conceptual designs, and making recommendations to Council. Nearly 200 members of the public addressed the committee and more than 90% supported adding bicycle lanes to the boulevard. (Read our meeting recaps.) But on March 5th, Council summarily dismissed the recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Committee and kicked the bike lanes can to December. In December, Council, faced with calls to not eliminate lanes from consideration, again punted and put off a decision until January 6th. (Please email City Council with your comments if you believe this boulevard needs bicycle lanes.)
About Those Bicycle Lanes…
Facing City Council is a key early decision: whether or not to expand the narrowest section of our boulevard a few feet to make room for bicycle lanes. Today the boulevard is irregular in width and ranges from 60 feet between Wilshire and Canon to a full 63 feet to the east. That 60-foot section is the choke point: at that width we cannot accommodate both turn lanes and bicycle lanes.
Opponents of bicycle lanes for Santa Monica Boulevard want to hold the narrow section to 60 feet, and have make a specious ‘save the park’ argument against even incremental expansion.
These NIMBYs want to see little change in their hamlet. They fought the proposed freeway in the 1960s and the Westside subway in the 1980s. Somehow bicycle lanes is the new bete noir to residents north of the boulevard. It’s worth noting that they opposed even sharrows for Carmelita and Elevado, both of which were floated by planners as an alternative to Santa Monica Boulevard bicycle lanes during the bike route pilot program meetings.
Fast-forward a couple of decades, and today representatives from the Beverly Hills North Homeowner Association and the Municipal League are going to the mat to prevent the installation of bicycle lanes. Local advocates (including Better Bike, the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, City of West Hollywood and Mid-City’s neighborhood council) are working to find a compromise that would allow bicycle lanes while rebutting opponents’ claim about loss of green space.
The proposal is ‘no-net-loss.’ Today the boulevard is irregular in width, ranging from 60 to 63 feet. We propose to reduce the width to 62 feet for two of the three sections under consideration (between Wilshire and Doheney) and expand the boulevard on the remaining section to 62 feet. Doing the math, there is effectively no loss in green space. The plan would also produce a boulevard of uniform width.
Santa Monica Boulevard has a distinguished history of facilitating multimodal transportation. Why not continue that legacy into the 21st century? With riders saying that bicycle lanes are necessary for this busy corridor to ensure that those who choose to bike can traverse it safely – while also making it less intimidating for those thinking about riding – we can make it welcoming for non-motor users as well as make it more efficient for motoring too. Win-win, as they say.
The Blue-Ribbon committee thought so: we voted 9-1 to expand the boulevard and to stripe bicycle lanes too. It helped that both West Hollywood and City of Los Angeles have striped their segments on either side, and the former remade its boulevard into an award-winning pedestrian-friendly Main Street.
At the last City Council meeting on December 2nd we saw City Council essentially united to limit the most narrow section of Santa Monica Boulevard to a width too narrow to support bicycle lanes. But that need not be the end of the discussion: we want Council to consider the alternative no-net-loss proposal when it reconvenes on the issue on January 6th. (Find the agenda here.)
You can help support multimodal mobility in Beverly Hills by contacting City Council about your preference for bicycle lanes on Santa Monica Boulevard. Reach councilmembers by email or call them at (310) 285-1013 (and be sure to let them know if you’re a resident of Beverly Hills or work here). Let us know how they respond.
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 7th Blue-Ribbon Committee meeting recap
- Santa Monica Boulevard Tour #1 Recap
- December 10th Blue-Ribbon Committee meeting recap
- January 8th Blue-Ribbon Committee meeting recap
- January 22nd Blue-Ribbon Committee meeting recap
- March 4th City Council meeting recap
- December 2nd City Council meeting recap
Our Santa Monica Boulevard Reconstruction project-related posts
- Another dozen reasons!
- A dozen reasons why bicycle lanes are right for Santa Monica Boulevard
- Beverly Hills Calls for Public Input on SM Blvd Project (10/28/13)
- Council’s Agenda for Tuesday: SM Blvd Reconstruction (9/6/13)
- Council Hears Santa Monica Boulevard Options (9/11/13)
- Beverly Hills Community Survey: Where’s the Validity?
- Will Complete Streets Become the Law of the Land? (8/4/13)
- City Releases Draft SM Blvd. Reconstruction RFP (4/16/12)
- City Council Study Session: Complete Streets Mentioned (4/7/12)
- 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)
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 (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 Principle (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.