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Look: New Drawings of Esplanade

PWP Landscape Architecture releases new depictions of the Colorado Esplanade, a thoroughfare that will serve as the future gateway into downtown Santa Monica. The City Council gives favorable reviews.

When riders aboard the hop off a train at the Colorado Boulevard and Fourth Street station, they'll descend down amphitheater steps and onto a 55-foot wide pedestrian sidewalk along Colorado.

They'll head west on decorative pavers, the blue and white Santa Monica Yacht Harbor sign within plain view, a bike path immediately to the right and cars—restricted to one-way westbound traffic—in the far left lane. Trees, perhaps palms, will line either side of the thoroughfare, and lights will be strung overhead.

They could also choose to head south to Ocean Avenue, where they'll continue walking on widened sidewalks (though they won't be the super-sized ones on Colorado) as they skirt the future Palisades Garden Walk park.

The expanded sidewalks are among the newest features of the design schematics for the future Colorado Esplanade. The thoroughfare is supposed to function as a new gateway into downtown as it connects the Expo station to Ocean Avenue, the pier and the Palisades Garden Walk.

"This design really looks nice," said Mayor Richard Bloom. "I've been anticipating seeing this for a long time."

"We've moved away some of the initial concept which included having a monument for the station and everything else flow from that. The station is very clearly now something that is there for transportation purposes," he continued, noting that he wanted to see an emphasis placed on a sense of departure, too.

Architect Adam Greenspan presented the latest esplanade plans to the City Council on Tuesday night. Greenspan represents PWP Landscape Architecture, the renowned firm behind the 9/11 memorial in New York City, and that more recently won a $2.2-million contract with the city of Santa Monica to design the Colorado Esplanade.

"For the first time as a council we're looking at what it's going to be like to come into a Santa Monica that's not car dominated," said Councilman Kevin McKeown. "This is an exciting moment in the process."

He cited concerns that there might be conflicts among the mix of pedestrians, cyclists and drivers, especially at the corner of Second and Main streets, which could be aligned into a single intersection. The alignment, PWP said, would improve the flow of vehicular traffic into downtown and improves access to the

Up to 400 people are expected to traverse the esplanade every five to seven minutes during peak hours, Greenspan said.

There will be room for the wide sidewalks, PWP said, because it proposes restricting vehicular traffic on Colorado to westbound travel only. The existing northbound right turn from Ocean Avenue onto Colorado Avenue will be removed, as will the southbound turn pocket currently on Ocean Avenue. 

"If we're going to have one-way traffic, great, but it will have significant impacts elsewhere," said Councilman Bobby Shriver, who asked to see traffic studies at future study sessions. 

Bicycle routes also get a lot of attention in the esplanade design.

Dedicated lanes for cyclists are proposed in both directions along Colorado. There's also a proposal for a bike connection through the Fourth Court alley to connect the station to the bike lanes on Broadway Boulevard. Additionally, the Main to Second Street realignment could connect the Main Street bike lane directly to the new Bike Center and downtown.

"The bikes are treated really well. Keeping them on the south side seems really smart to me," said Councilman Terry O'Day. "This is a really terrific step forward."

PWP representatives told the council Tuesday that there's still a "fair amount of designing left to do." It will continue to refine its drawings with input from the City Council and its advisory boards and commissions.

Carl Hamilton February 15, 2012 at 11:16 PM
Ooooh pretty. Santa Monica seems dedicated to continue to be one of the more pedestrian-friendly, out-and-about cities in the area.
Eddie Greenberg February 16, 2012 at 03:57 AM
Sounds a little like a former brilliant "idea". The transit mall was a $13 million dollar mistake. Another 1 lane for cars? Looking at downtown on weekends and the gridlock how much more of this can we take? Perhaps the final plans will be more sensible? All of this nonsense one day will drive out visitors and shoppers to give up coming here. One looks at all of this social engineering in disgust.
Lou Averbach February 16, 2012 at 07:20 AM
Looks beautiful and it means making traffic even worse, does anyone downtown not want to punish those of us who use cars to get around. It's one thing to make things nicer to walk or ride a bike, it's quite another to make it impossible for those of us who want other choices. I assume parking meter cost will be going up again..
Carl Hamilton February 16, 2012 at 06:07 PM
Promoting walking and biking is more important than catering to all the individual (as in non-carpooling) people who find it so necessary to drive 5-8 blocks.
corner soul February 16, 2012 at 08:31 PM
If they can remove cars from an entire block of times square with minimal traffic impact, I'm sure Santa Monica can manage losing 1 lane... consider this: http://seattlebikeblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/car-bus-bike.jpg
Gary Kavanagh February 16, 2012 at 11:00 PM
A traffic study included in the presentation at the recent community workshop indicated this would actually improve traffic movements on connecting streets because of the removal of signal phases because Colorado would be one way, that it would not have any negative travel time impacts. Particularly because Main would be shifted to flow straight into 2nd since it would no longer need a right turn pocket. About 99.9% of all transportation resources are devoted to the "choice" of driving a car. It's time to start treating other choices equitably, especially since some people can't afford or do not want to own cars at all, and this is going to be a growing trend as all the cheaply extractable oil fields in the world continue depleting.
Gary Kavanagh February 16, 2012 at 11:18 PM
It's 2 lanes with 1 way flow. Not sure what you mean by "Another 1 lane for cars". Secondly, because this stretch would be 1 way, it removes the need for right turn pock on Main at Colorado, and so Main can be shifted to flow straight into 2nd. This removes signal phases that will actually benefit cross streets and thus improve some flows, and thus mitigating the loss of one direction on Colorado for a few blocks. Thirdly, providing better pedestrian and bicycling movement in the city is preciously why visitors and shoppers are flocking here while auto-centric districts and malls elsewhere in the country are struggling. With every shift to better facilities for walking biking and transit service, Santa Monica has been strengthening it's economic footing relative to neighboring communities. Quite the reverse of the notion of those like yourself who believe people will simply go away if a few bike lanes pop up and we get some wider sidewalks. Fourthly, the biggest social engineering experiment in all of American history has been the devotion of massive public resources to build around automobiles. To destroy entire urban neighborhoods to make way for more cars. To subsidize parking, real estate space, and public resources all toward a single mode of travel at the expense of having a rational balance of different travel modes and choices. If want to look at social engineering, there is no better place to start than the American government support of automobiles.
Eddie Greenberg February 16, 2012 at 11:42 PM
You didn't mention the Transit Mall Gary. Is it as designed in your opinion car friendly, bike friendly, bus friendly or none of the above? Particularly on weekends. Many times it looks more like a homeless hangout than the purpose it was designed for. Just wondered what your take on that was.
Gary Kavanagh February 17, 2012 at 12:05 AM
It gave buses a dedicated space so they weren't stuck in as much traffic getting through downtown and could make more timely downtown stops. Since nearly all of the bus lines converge in downtown, it has benefits for several different lines, both BBB and Metro. The wider sidewalks are nice, but I would say I wish the seating were better laid out, and that the style of bike rack used within the transit mall are not as functional as racks elsewhere in the city. The bus shelter signage should have been designed in such a way that the informational signs didn't obstruct the view of approaching buses, which is a common design error of engineers of transit projects who are not transit users them self. But on the whole I think it was a step in the right direction. I think buses should have dedicated lanes in at least some places so they can keep schedule and not be stuck in the car traffic. Bus travelers cause almost no traffic congestion individually because of the space efficiencies of buses, but are impacted significantly by traffic caused by car drivers. It throws off system schedule regularity and the confidence in knowing a bus will arrive when you expect and increases chance of waiting at a stop longer. Especially when traveling at night it can be off putting to wait excessively for a bus.
Brenda Barnes October 21, 2012 at 12:17 AM
How about the bright idea to replace the Main Street bridge that, after hundreds of thousands in costs, had to be scrapped because the planning department hadn't known where the dripline of the landmarked fig tree there was? AND hadn't figured out the traffic flow problem of making Second Street come through to the south, when it is too far west to do that. The traffic flow nightmare of one-way streets downtown we thought we had put behind us, but no. 2,538 City employees as of July 31, 2011 have to justify their jobs by making one ridiculous proposal after another to overbuild the City and waste money. This City is being run by apparent lamebrains who long ago completely sold out to developers and tourism. They also think nothing of giving out contracts like this one for $2.2 million just for design, and then claim stopping of redevelopment money is what caused them to be short of funds for needed services. Like replacing the transformer near Penn Ave and Stanford St, which has gone out causing two hour-long electric outages in our block in the last three months. In the old days before the City started paying bills with developer fees as "community benefits," and then nine times as much from grants, foundations, and other levels of government, they did not spend our money as though it were limitless. Those days are very long gone. Vote in people who will create a livable City for its residents, not tourists, developers, or their own future careers.
Barbara Filet January 26, 2013 at 08:53 PM
The drawing you are showing is actually the OLD one, since it does not show both bike lanes on the south side of the street.
Brenda Barnes January 26, 2013 at 11:25 PM
This is an old story. It would be nice to see some new drawings that were actually accurate, unlike most of what the Planning Department puts out. For instance, they did a map of streets and traffic flow for the Bergamot Area Plan draft presented to the Planning Commission without identifying any streets on the map. This kind of sloppy work by 1 City employee for every 35 residents begins to look like it is intentionally confusing, so we won't know what they are saying soon enough to stop it.
Deborah January 27, 2013 at 03:16 AM
Florence, Italy now prohibits cars from its downtown district, with fines in excess of $100 and traffic cam enforcement. http://www.reidsguides.com/italy/destinations/tuscany/florence/transport/to_by_car.html
Brenda Barnes January 27, 2013 at 06:27 AM
Florence is 72nd in the world in attracting tourists whereas all of Los Angeles, the second most populous city in the US and home of the film industry known throughout the planet, is only 23rd. http://blog.euromonitor.com/2013/01/top-100-cities-destination-ranking.html One really cannot compare a city with the most famous sculpture on the planet to anything SM pretends to have as a tourist attraction separate from being in Los Angeles. Even Venice Beach is more well-known.. More importantly, Florence is a place where the top 10 tourist attractions are all within easy walking distance, blocks, of each other, and inside the ring road going around them, a ring road lined with parking lots. If that kind of planning had ever been done for SM, it wouldn't be the mess it is. Certainly not comparable to Florence, which seems to have been planned by thoughtful people since about 1400.
Dan Charney March 16, 2013 at 09:04 AM
But Brenda- not just Florence but other ancient city models are where to look for the ideas- so now it's bikes and not donkeys or carts but it's still movement. I would love to find some creative planners and pick their brains- ones who value the lessons of history - to me - they should cordon off the essential downtown and just allow those who live there passage - restrict service vehicles to certain hours and make it just for pedestrians or bicycles- the area from about 4th to Ocean/ SM to Colorado - or flood it and let's turn it into Venice, Italy - we can all wear striped shirts and learn to sing while riding gondolas to the Genius Bar

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