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State of the City: 'We Are Not Going to Rest'

County transit and city officials address business community about the arrival of the Expo Light Rail.

At the State of the City Thursday that spotlighted the Expo Light Rail's arrival into Santa Monica—and the development it will continue to spur—transit officials called this city a model for all of Los Angeles.

"You are a model for the county," said Martha Welborne, a head planner at the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Authority.

Santa Monica is "livable," "vibrant," and "sustainable," she said to an audience of city and business and community leaders.

Speaking to this year's theme of "Santa Monica On the Move," Welborne gave an update on the 119 miles of rail lines added countywide in the past two decades and the $40 billion in improvements to come. The planner was followed by Exposition Metro Line Construction Authority CEO Rick Thorpe, who spoke more specifically about the Expo light rail, which "is really going to happen... it's on its way."

When Thorpe said the rail would be competition for the notriously congested 10 Freeway by taking riders from downtown Santa Monica to downtown Los Angeles in 46 minutes, he drew chuckles.

"This year is going to be a big year for the project," Thorpe said. "A vast majority of the construction will occur this year." That includes building sound walls, installing tracks and continuing to construct  bridges and stations, he said. 

But "you can't build an infrastructure project of this magnitude without having construction impacts," he warned.

While Thorpe addresses some imminent road closures, City Manager Rod Gould confronted the bigger impacts that "are of great concern" to residents—traffic and development.

The city will continue its efforts to reduce residents' and workers' reliance on cars, he said, noting a 30 percent increase in bicycle ridership in Santa Monica last year. Big Blue Bus ridership also spiked to 19 million, according to Gould.

The traffic problem, he said, "is so pervasive and regional it defies a simple solution."

In the coming years, city leaders will will have the "opportunity to think about what we want developed" and "how that new development will occur."

There are more than 30 development agreement applications pending in City Hall (that's an all-time record for Santa Monica), primarily in downtown, on Lincoln Boulevard and near the bus and train lines.

The city manager promised to listen to residents' concerns and to consider all of their ideas and opinions.

"We are not going to rest until we have that ticket to ride the Expo line in our hands," Mayor Pam O'Connor said as she accepted a "special recognition" award from the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce.

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stewart resmer January 25, 2013 at 09:10 PM
there goes the neighborhood. archie bunker to edith
Dan Charney January 25, 2013 at 10:04 PM
We like SM as it is thanks- why not take that light rail to Manhattan Beach? If you think so many people will ride it then why are you putting so much parking at every new structure that has been proposed? I don't think Metro cares on bit, nor does O'Connor or Gould- who pretends to care what residents think - I don't think so- the Chamber, the Council and the City Manager could not care less what residents think- or they would stop the over-development of this city NOW- this city is already choking and gridlocked- the light rail is the worst idea ever- we don't want Welborne's concept of livable, vibrant and sustainable - what utter dishonest political babble. Many of us are totally sick of it- and their stream rolling laws and bringing misery and ruin to us.
Valerie Ferguson January 26, 2013 at 05:42 AM
Construction is going to be one BIG traffic nightmare. I think the rail will be used mostly by riders that work in SM but do not live in SM. It seems that SM & Venice has replaced Westwood and Hollywood as a tourist hot spot...just look at the promenade on the weekend on a warm day...it's wall to wall people.
Brenda Barnes January 26, 2013 at 09:12 AM
How true and sad, Dan. I also notice how these people are always applauding each other and keep on saying the same words that have not been true about SM for at least 10 years, ever since the traffic got so bad because of 6th and 7th Streets being destroyed between Colorado and Wilshire. The truth is construction problems are horrific, but worse is what we will get if the construction is ever finished--cost overruns being de rigeur, and the California Supreme Court having taken the WLA Expo challenge. On-grade crossings 26 times an hour for 80 seconds each time--a total of 39 minutes an hour--at Olympic and Stewart, 20th between Olympic and Colorado, 17th and Colorado, and 10th and Colorado (more or less--maps show things at corners when driving to the construction shows it different). That means traffic will be more than TWICE as bad as it is now throughout the downtown and the middle and eastern parts of the City even if there were no new car trips. However, LUCE allows and the Council keeps approving even more, many developments that each add 2,000 new car trips a day. This is why each development has two levels of underground parking. Everyone involved knows people will be using cars, but they pretend by putting the parking underground that everyone will be walking, biking, and using Expo.
Brenda Barnes January 26, 2013 at 09:16 AM
Valerie, I think promoting SM as a tourist attraction has worked. SM spends $1 m a year on that. Wall-to-wall people and expensive shopping bags show it is working. However, the traffic is what we are left with.
Dan Charney January 27, 2013 at 02:51 AM
It already is- try going east on Pico or OP Blvd after 3- other areas are impossible- I never go downtown anymore - and if we were to get more Blue Bus- why have they taken away the 4th ST bus line? Hopefully not just those working in SM will use it- but those who live here and work downtown as well- but my fear is it will just bring the hoards of bodies here day and night year round- help- NYC by the beach
Brenda Barnes January 27, 2013 at 06:17 AM
I read on the Visitors and Tourist Bureau page, funded completely by the City of SM, that without tourist dollars every household in SM would have to pay $928 more a year for City services. I'm willing to pay my $80 a month, in a heartbeat. Plus, knowing how the City lies about everything, I'd bet they took the total spent by tourists put into the general fund and divided that by the number of households. Never once did they consider that every City service except schools and residential trash collection is higher BECAUSE there are tourists. So for maybe $50 a month each we could have them all go away? I'm in.
Dan Charney January 27, 2013 at 08:21 AM
Me too- gladly pay - good luck to us- they couldn't justify their jobs then-
Bob January 27, 2013 at 10:40 PM
That's not "vibrancy", Martha; it's stress. Every place at our latitude is "livable", and there's nothing sustainable about what's going on (unless you redefine "sustainable"). In my universe, on a planet I like to call "Earth", Santa Monica has become exponentially less livable. That's why the City needs rules of civility...the last refuge of the corrupt and incompetent.
Dan Charney March 14, 2013 at 07:57 AM
What total babble- haven't we all had enough????

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