Description: bwwide-R

City Council Report

 

City Council Meeting: February 11, 2014

Agenda Item:  8-C  

To:               Mayor and City Council 

From:           David Martin, Planning and Community Development Director

Subject:        Adoption of Michigan Avenue Neighborhood Greenway Concept Plan

 

 

Recommended Action

Staff recommends that the City Council:

1.     Approve the conceptual design of the Michigan Avenue Neighborhood Greenway;

2.     Direct staff to pursue opportunities for priority and phased implementation through grants, community benefits, and capital projects.

 

Executive Summary

For the last year, Planning and Community Development staff implemented a community engagement and concept design process for the Michigan Avenue Neighborhood Greenway, funded by a Caltrans Environmental Justice grant. The Michigan Avenue Neighborhood Greenway project would enhance Michigan Avenue and connecting streets on the eastern and western ends to realize a multi-modal corridor in the Pico Neighborhood that would provide a safe and comfortable place for neighbors of all ages to walk, bike, recreate, and interact with one another.

 

The concept plan is the result of a strong collaboration with community members and community organizations, input from hundreds of voices at four community meetings, and comments from various boards and commissions. The recommended concept includes pedestrian lighting, landscaping, improved crosswalks, roadway striping, and traffic calming as well as signage and way-finding to identify the corridor and neighborhood destinations, mini-parks, and green walls. The project is in concert with the established goals and policies of several City plans. Approval of the concept plan and direction to pursue priority implementation opportunities would facilitate next steps toward phased implementation.

 

Background

In 2011, the City was awarded a California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) Environmental Justice Grant in the amount of $138,600 to provide outreach and conceptual design services for the Michigan Avenue Neighborhood Greenway. The grant program promotes a balanced, comprehensive, multi-modal transportation system. It is designed to support projects that reduce air and noise pollution, while providing access to affordable transportation options in low-income and minority communities.

The Greenway primarily travels along Michigan Avenue, with a beach connection on the west end and connections to Bergamot Arts Center and the Expo bike and pedestrian path on the east end. As an important component of the City’s No Net New Trips strategy, the project is identified in the Land Use and Circulation Element (LUCE) and the Bike Action Plan. The project also furthers LUCE goals of enhancing neighborhood quality of life, Sustainable City Plan goals, and the goals of the Open Space Element, by treating streets as public open space. The Greenway supports the City’s Safe Routes to School efforts by providing connections to Santa Monica High School (Samohi) and Edison Language Academy.

 

Discussion

The Michigan Avenue Neighborhood Greenway would be an inviting neighborhood gathering and sustainable circulation space along Michigan Avenue and adjoining streets. This would be achieved through elements including roadway calming, increased landscaping, bike facilities, lighting, and enhanced crosswalks. The three-mile Greenway between the Bergamot Arts Center and the beach would provide a safe and comfortable place for neighbors of all ages to walk, bike, recreate, and interact with one another. Additionally, it would be a functional circulation link to connect residents and visitors with many significant community and regional institutions, including schools, job centers, and future Expo stations. The project would make it easier to get around Santa Monica on foot and by bicycle, and is intended to enhance the livability of the neighborhood and improve environmental quality.

 

Michigan Avenue was selected as the location for a Neighborhood Greenway for several reasons.

 

Connection to community destinations and location:

·       Michigan Avenue provides direct access to Samohi. Students from most areas of the City can easily travel to Michigan Avenue for a direct link to the campus.

·       For cyclists in the neighborhood headed to points east or west, the closest bike facilities are Broadway and Pearl Street. Accessing both of these streets requires crossing Pico or Olympic Boulevards, which are both busy thoroughfares. The Greenway would provide a convenient facility for those living within the neighborhood.

 

Ability to serve local community need:

·       As of the 2010 US Census, the 90404 ZIP code (the borders of which are approximately coterminous with those of the Pico Neighborhood) has many young and senior residents. Fourteen percent of the residents are younger than 18 years old and 13% are 65 are older. Portions of each cohort depend on walking, biking, and transit for independence and mobility.

·       Eighteen percent of residents 16 and older commute to work by walking, biking, and transit. This percentage is anticipated to increase upon the opening of the Expo line.

·       According to the Youth Wellbeing Report Card, 1 in 4 SMMUSD students residing in 90404 were unable to pass at least 4 of 6 State physical fitness tests, which is the lowest performing of the City’s ZIP codes. Providing more opportunities for active transportation would work toward reversing this.

 

Michigan Avenue is used as a shortcut:

·       Automobile volumes along Michigan Avenue between Lincoln Boulevard and 11th Street are much higher than would otherwise be expected given adjacent land uses. This indicates that motorists are using Michigan Avenue, a neighborhood street as designated by the LUCE, as a shortcut to avoid using Olympic, Pico, and Lincoln Boulevards.

·       The LUCE sets forth the following guidelines (p 4.0-20) for Neighborhood Streets:

o   “Set design speed at below 25 mph so that bicycles can share travel lane with cars and pedestrians can safely walk across the street at any location.”

o   “Discourage regional traffic from using these streets.”

·       The route of the Greenway is also designated as a Bikeway in the LUCE, which states (p. 4.0-21):

o   “Design street as a bicycle boulevard, with physical measures to reduce motor vehicles and volumes so that cyclists can comfortably share lanes with autos where right-of-way is not available for bicycle lanes.”

 

Ability to further the goals of the Open Space Element:

·       The mini-parks proposed further the realization of Policy 2.3: Reclaim excessively wide streets within the City, and Policy 4.1: “Green” neighborhood streets.

·       The special paving proposed on the cul-de-sac streets furthers Policy 2.4: Encourage open space and recreational use of alleys and street ends.

·       The Greenway connects the Pico Neighborhood and the Civic Center to the beach bike path furthering Policy 5.1: Reconnect the City and the beach.

 

Ability to further the goals of the Sustainable City Plan:

·       The project would increase the amount of permeable land area within the City to reduce urban wastewater runoff (p. 11).

·       Encouraging active transportation would work toward reducing citywide Greenhouse Gas Emissions (p. 9).

·       The Greenway would work to support “an upward trend in the use of sustainable modes of transportation” (p. 12).

·       The proposed traffic calming measures would work to reduce the number of bicycle and pedestrian collisions involving motor vehicles (p. 13).

 

Public Outreach

Over the course of the past year and a half, the City has engaged hundreds of Santa Monica residents in a discussion about the Michigan Avenue Neighborhood Greenway. Four principal workshops were held along with over a dozen smaller community updates. The majority of the participants at the meetings were Pico Neighborhood residents. The cornerstone of the outreach efforts was the Pop-Up MANGo temporary greenway installation and community festival, which was attended by over 400 people.

 

At the outset of the public outreach process, staff met with the Pico Neighborhood Association (PNA) on December 13, 2012 and the Virginia Avenue Park Advisory Board on February 4, 2013. The purpose of these preliminary meetings was to introduce the project, outline the planned outreach process, and provide an opportunity for input.

 

The City hosted the first community workshop on March 16, 2013, which was extensively noticed to Pico Neighborhood residents through bilingual postcards delivered to almost 4,000 households in the neighborhood, and bilingual PNA members who went door to door extending personal invitations to all Michigan Avenue households between Lincoln Boulevard and 20th Street. Fifty-four members attended and heard a presentation about the goals for the project. Spanish translation of the presentation was offered. Participants went on one of four walking or biking tours of the corridor. Bilingual questionnaires prompted participants to comment on the existing conditions of the corridor. Many identified high traffic volumes and speeds as major issues to address through traffic calming. Creating a more multi-modal emphasis on the street for pedestrians and bicyclists of all ages and abilities was a common desire. Some participants expressed concerns regarding gentrification and stressed that the project must be designed by and for the community.

 

Description: workshop1collage

Participants conducting walking and biking audits of the corridor at the March 2013 workshop.

 

Following the community workshop, staff made presentations to the following City boards and commissions between April and August 2013:

·       Task Force on the Environment

·       Recreation and Parks Commission

·       Disabilities Commission

·       Commission on the Status of Women

·       Commission for the Senior Community

·       Social Services Commission

·       Planning Commission

 

Initial Concept Options

Based on the existing conditions and feedback from the community, boards, and commissions, staff evaluated various primary treatments that could be employed to create a Neighborhood Greenway. These primary actions could implement a toolbox of landscaping, lighting, signage, and other treatments that characterize a Greenway.

·       A cycle track along Michigan Avenue to create a protected bikeway between Lincoln Boulevard and 20th Street. This would have required the removal of approximately 100 on-street parking spaces along one side of Michigan Avenue.

·       Traffic circles at intersections to slow traffic. Traffic circles would be placed at non-signalized crossings and would be landscaped with a tree and/or other plants.

·       Mini-parks to create neighborhood gathering spaces where excess roadway capacity exists. These spaces could be designed to provide seating, landscaping, or public art without removing parking spaces or travel lanes.

·       A traffic diverter to reduce westbound automobile trips on Michigan Avenue between 11th Street and Lincoln Boulevard, while continuing to allow bicycle trips. This segment represents the highest automobile volumes on Michigan Avenue.

·       Chicanes to slow automobiles. Whereas traffic circles are used at intersections, chicanes are used in pairs between intersections to introduce slaloms in the roadway causing vehicles to slow down. Each pair of chicanes removes approximately two on-street parking spaces.

·       Slow movement intersections to calm traffic. These are raised intersections with special paving, such as those included in the recently-completed Longfellow Street project. They slow vehicles and encourage vehicles to stop for pedestrians crossing the street.

 

Pop-Up MANGo

On September 21, 2013, the City held a large interactive community festival featuring temporary installations of the potential primary Greenway treatments called Pop-Up MANGo. This approach was employed in order to facilitate a strong community understanding of these various treatments while also eliminating as many barriers to community participation as possible. The event was held along Michigan Avenue between 9th and 12th Streets and featured temporary installations of a traffic circle, a mini park, chicanes, and traffic diversion. Additionally, the festive event included complementary lunch from one of two food trucks for participants who provided input at all six stations, live music, an art workshop, and fun activities for kids. Community organizations hosted booths, including Santa Monica Spoke, SantaMonicaWalks!, and Meals on Wheels West. Representatives from the Santa Monica Police Department were also present.

Description: pop up photo

Participants at the Pop-Up MANGo event.            Temporary traffic circle installation.

 

Outreach for the event was multifaceted:

·       Door hangers were delivered to roughly 4,000 Pico Neighborhood addresses.

·       Signs announcing the event were posted along the entire corridor.

·       Posters were set up at the City’s Farmers Markets, including the Saturday market at Virginia Avenue Park.

 

Just as at the March workshop, Pop-Up MANGo was held along the corridor to reduce barriers to participation for neighbors, and Spanish translation was offered.

 

Over 400 people attended the event. Of the 254 people that signed in, 73% were residents of the Pico Neighborhood. Participants were able to experience the installations by walking, biking, or driving by. Each installation included an area for participants to provide comments and ask questions of staff. Supplemental stations asked participants to prioritize other greenway components, such as lighting and landscaping, and to identify which destinations to include on the proposed wayfinding signage. The final station asked participants to rate the various potential components of the Greenway. The following graphic illustrates how favorably various elements were rated by Pico Neighborhood residents (PNR).

A range of roadway and traffic calming options were also discussed. Many elements received popular support, while the community was more divided about others. Even though the cycle track enjoyed support from almost two-thirds of Pico Neighborhood residents, many indicated that their support was contingent upon not eliminating parking on one side of Michigan Avenue to accommodate it. As the street is not wide enough to accommodate this, the cycle track between Lincoln Boulevard and 20th Street has been removed from the proposal.

Traffic diverters were favored by the majority of participants at the event. However, the discussion about diversion continued in the community well after Pop-Up MANGo. In response to this ongoing discussion, the PNA administered a survey that found the vast majority of those polled were opposed to a traffic diverter at 11th Street and Michigan Avenue. Using the same survey, a separate Pico Neighborhood resident polled others and found that a majority of those polled supported traffic diversion. Given the mixed response to this treatment and the importance of calming traffic for safety along the Greenway, staff is recommending peak period turn restriction signage as a compromise measure with ongoing monitoring. These signs would reduce automobile volumes on Michigan Avenue between 11th Street and Lincoln Boulevard during the most impacted times on weekdays, while allowing access at all other times, including all day on weekends. Based on guidance from the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), the concept plan sets a maximum target of 2,000 vehicle trips per day along the Greenway. If the signage does not achieve this goal, changes to it could be made or other treatments could be implemented with ongoing monitoring and community involvement.

 

These results and revised strategies were explained at a project update meeting held on December 9, 2013, to the forty-one community members in attendance. The group was supportive of the project and appreciated how the proposal had evolved in response to community concerns.

 

The conceptual design was presented to the community at a workshop held on January 7, 2014. Over 60 community members attended the meeting and provided input on the design. Overall, participants were enthusiastic about the project.

 

Preferred Concept

The preferred concept plan for the Michigan Avenue Neighborhood Greenway is included as Attachment A, and includes a summary of the extensive community process, an overall vision for the corridor, and phasing strategies that are rooted in community priorities. The three-mile Greenway would create linkages from the Pico Neighborhood to local destinations and job centers including the beach, Downtown Santa Monica, and Bergamot Station through streetscape enhancements designed to enhance safety, comfort, sustainability, and landscaping.

 

Pedestrians and cyclists are encouraged through the inclusion of enhanced lighting, crosswalks, additional landscaping, sharrows, and new connections through the Civic Center and across the freeway. Further enhancing the corridor are mini-parks, which could foster community by facilitating impromptu social interactions and accommodate seating, new trees, landscaping, and public art. Traffic calming is proposed through the use of traffic circles, chicanes, slow-movement intersections, and peak period turning restrictions at the intersection of Michigan Avenue and 11th Street.

Description: rendering

Proposed view of Michigan Avenue

 

Some elements are planned for the entire length of the Greenway. Pedestrian-scaled lighting is proposed to improve safety along the corridor at night. Increased landscaping is proposed to enhance both air quality and the aesthetic of the corridor. Coupled with additional trees and plants, green walls are proposed along freeway edges. Landscaped areas could be designed to capture and clean storm water runoff with bioswales. Sharrows are proposed except where shared use paths are introduced, to encourage safe positioning of cyclists within the roadway. Wayfinding and Greenway identification signage is proposed to direct users to nearby destinations and to show locations where the Greenway turns onto other streets. Signage could be installed along the roadway to encourage motorists to travel below the speed limit. Public art could be installed within mini-parks and other areas to build on the unique sense of place within the Pico Neighborhood. Throughout the course of the plan, the project team has coordinated with various City departments including Public Works, Community and Cultural Services, the Police, and Fire Department.

Text Box: Green wall

 

 

For purposes of defining certain solutions and respecting unique conditions along the corridor, the attached report divides the Greenway into four segments. From east to west they are: the Bergamot Connector, the Neighborhood Wiggle, the Central Neighborhood Greenway, and the Beach Connector. Upon final construction however, the intent is that users would interpret the Greenway as one continuous facility.

 

Central Neighborhood Greenway

This segment travels along Michigan Avenue between Lincoln Boulevard and 20th Street. It employs a series of landscaped traffic circles at the neighborhood crossings, which were tested for feasibility using emergency response vehicles of various sizes by the Fire Department. At Lincoln Boulevard, and 11th, 14th, and 17th Streets, bulb-outs would be introduced to minimize pedestrian crossing distances and slow traffic. The cul-de-sac blocks adjacent to the freeway could be repaved with a special treatment to indicate that the area is a shared street space. These changes would enhance usage of Michigan Avenue for Samohi students travelling by active modes of transportation. Mini-parks are proposed at locations such as 9th, 10th, 12th, Streets and 19th Court to create small, informal neighborhood gathering spaces. The mini-park proposed for 19th Court would require coordination with Caltrans and the adjacent condominium residents. At 19th Court, the ultimate goal would be to respond to community concerns that the existing walkway is unsafe and inhospitable to users. See page 42 of Attachment A for more details.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Neighborhood Wiggle

Continuing eastward, the Greenway “wiggles” southbound on 19th Street, eastbound on Delaware Avenue, southbound on 22nd Street, eastbound on Virginia Avenue, southbound on 27th Street, and eastbound on Kansas Avenue to reach Stewart Street. The section has some of the narrowest street widths in the project. Wayfinding signage is critical along this stretch of the Greenway to direct pedestrians and cyclists along the route. Traffic circles, which would be smaller than those proposed for the Central Neighborhood Greenway, are proposed. Slow-movement intersections are proposed at the intersections of 19th Street and Delaware Avenue, 22nd Street and Virginia Avenue, and Frank Street and Virginia Avenue. The latter two intersections represent entrances to Virginia Avenue Park and Edison Language Academy, respectively, and would enhance pedestrian safety in the vicinity of these important destinations. As with the Central Neighborhood Greenway, the three cul-de-sac blocks on this segment

 

Description: SMI

 

are proposed to receive a special pavement treatment. Chicanes are proposed along 22nd Street to slow vehicles along this roadway and introduce additional landscaping. This would eliminate no more than two parking spaces on this block. See page 45 of Attachment A for more.

 

Bergamot Connector

Reconnecting Michigan Avenue where it is bisected by the Santa Monica Freeway, this segment would create a two-way bike and pedestrian path along a widened sidewalk along the east side of the 20th Street Bridge. The sidewalk could be widened without a reduction in automobile travel lanes. This would connect to a pathway created along the north side of the Freeway, utilizing both a 10 foot wide easement adjacent to the Crossroads School campus and Caltrans-owned land adjacent to the Freeway. From there, the Greenway would utilize Michigan Avenue to connect to and through Bergamot Station Arts Center. A pair of chicanes is proposed on Michigan Avenue between 22nd Street and Cloverfield Boulevard. Additionally, a mini-park could be created in the short stub of 22nd Street south of Michigan Avenue. See page 49 of Attachment A for more information.

 

Text Box:

 

 

Description: chicane

 

Beach Connector

Connecting the Central Neighborhood Greenway to the west is the Beach Connector. The corridor would travel north along 7th Court to a two-way bike and pedestrian path along Olympic Boulevard. Once across 4th Street, the Greenway would create a bike and pedestrian path along the wide sidewalk on the north side of Olympic Drive between Ocean Avenue and Avenida Mazatlan. Cyclists and pedestrians would cross Ocean Avenue at the new traffic signal and continue west along Pacific Terrace and eventually down to Ocean Front Walk and the Marvin Braude Bike Trail. This segment connects to the planned improvements for the Samohi Safe Routes to School project, which would create new neighborhood and beach connections to the south of the campus. See page 47 of Attachment A for more details.

Description: http://www.landscapeforms.com/PublishingImages/ProductPageImages/Alcott%20Pedestrian%20Light/Alcott%20Pedestiran%20Light-3.jpg

Pedestrian-scaled lighting

 

Next Steps

Implementation of the plan would occur in phases, as grants, City funding, and other opportunities are available. The attached report identifies a strategy that could be used to initiate implementation and address later stages. The phasing plan calls for an initial package of key lower-cost elements to address community priorities followed by the implementation of the Central Greenway segment as a near-term priority (0-5 years) along with supportive improvements in other segments. The mid-term (5-8 years) focuses on implementation of the Neighborhood Wiggle and Bergamot Connector segments, followed by the Beach Connector in the long-term (8+ years).

 

As the community is interested in realizing the benefits of this project in the near term, staff would pursue implementation of a set of measures that are low-cost and effective. This includes the installation of sharrows, speed limit signage, leading pedestrian intervals at Lincoln Boulevard and Michigan Avenue, peak-period vehicular restriction signage at 11th Street and Michigan Avenue, and wayfinding signage. These would address the immediate safety and quality of life issues identified along this corridor and provide critical wayfinding for users. With further outreach to neighbors, mini-parks or traffic circles could be implemented in a temporary way through the use of crash-rated planters and benches. To encourage use, staff plans to identify the corridor on the City’s pedestrian and bike maps and to host educational rides of the corridor. These actions would help to identify the corridor immediately, provide benefit to the neighborhood, and further encourage active transportation.

 

The City has received a Safe Routes to School grant to construct elements of the Greenway in the vicinity of Edison Language Academy in the summer of 2015. The current Samohi Safe Routes to School grant would construct components of the project at the intersection of Lincoln Boulevard and Michigan Avenue such as crosswalk upgrades and signal phasing improvements. The remainder of the project is unfunded. A grant for construction of components of the Central Greenway was awarded in 2013 by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Authority (Metro). However, changes in federal funding as a result of the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) have required the City to reapply for the funds. Staff would continue to pursue grant opportunities to realize completion of additional project phases. The attached report would enhance the City’s competitiveness in future grant funding opportunities. Additionally, the report would inform the negotiations of Development Agreements for projects located near the Greenway.

 

Environmental Analysis

The project is statutorily exempt from the provisions of California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) pursuant to 21080.20.5 of the State Implementation Guidelines as the project is consistent with a bicycle plan prepared pursuant to Section 891.2 of the Streets and Highways Code. The project consists of the restriping and repainting of sharrows on Michigan Avenue between 7th and 20th Streets and other adjoining streets on the west and east ends to link the beach with Bergamot. The project would also contain pedestrian and placemaking improvements including bulb outs at intersections, neighborhood traffic circles, landscaping, and trees. The traffic analysis indicated that all nearby affected intersections would continue to operate at acceptable levels of service after completion of the project. Staff held public hearings and community workshops on the project.

 

Financial Impacts & Budget Actions

There is no immediate financial impact or budget action necessary as a result of recommended action. Staff will return to Council if specific budget actions are required in the future.

 

Prepared by: Jason Kligier, AICP, Transportation Planning Associate

 

Approved:

 

Forwarded to Council:

 

 

 

 

 

 

David Martin, Director

Planning and Community Development

 

 

 

Rod Gould

City Manager

 

Attachments:

A.    Michigan Avenue Neighborhood Greenway Concept Plan