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
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.
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.
· 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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.