City Council Meeting: March 24, 2009

Agenda Item: 3-A

To:                   Mayor and City Council

From:              Eileen Fogarty, Director Planning and Community Development

                        Barbara Stinchfield, Director Community and Cultural Services

                        Lee Swain, Director of Public Works

                        Andy Agle, Director of Housing and Economic Development

                        Stephanie Negriff, Director, Big Blue Bus

 

Subject:          Discussion of an interdepartmental recommendation that coordinates planning, urban design and circulation improvements for the Downtown Expo Light Rail Station and Civic Center CIP projects into an integrated framework.

 

Recommended Action

Staff recommends that the City Council support the interdepartmental approach and provide direction on staff recommendations, including the studies as outlined herein and presented at the Study Session.

 

Executive Summary

 

The future Exposition Light Rail line is an exciting opportunity for the City. The terminus station in Downtown Santa Monica, located at 4th Street and Colorado Avenue, will increase pedestrian activity and change the pattern of bicycle, transit and vehicular traffic in the downtown. The City can capitalize on this opportunity to transform circulation patterns by integrating them with the Civic Center projects, shared parking, joint uses, and downtown improvements. Recognizing the need to evaluate this area comprehensively in order to maximize its potential and the interrelated projects within it, the Directors have met regularly with the support of the City Manager and a staff working group to integrate planning for the Downtown and Civic Center.

 

This report presents an interdepartmental approach that provides the City with an opportunity to comprehensively address some of the larger objectives identified by Council:

 

·        Connecting the Civic Center and Downtown

·        Creating a vibrant downtown LRT transit gateway

·        Enhancing and expanding open space and park area

·        Resolving circulation issues for pedestrians, bicycles, transit and other vehicles

·        Addressing parking needs comprehensively, identifying shared use opportunities.

 

 

The interdepartmental working group identified key issues for resolution:

 

·        LRT Station Area and Pedestrian Facilities. Improve the pedestrian, bicycle, transit, and vehicular facilities and connections associated with the Light Rail Station, and diverting potential congestion at the 4th and Colorado intersection,

·        Palisades Garden Walk Park. Define parameters for Palisades Garden Walk that relate surrounding public and private uses, event venues at the Civic Center, the Pier, and Light Rail Station,

·        Linkage across the I-10 Freeway. Address the barrier created by the I-10 freeway and identifying means to build connections across it, improving the pedestrian experience and connections,

·        Santa Monica High School (Samohi) Joint Uses and Parking. Capitalize on shared parking opportunities including special event parking, and optimizing joint use with Santa Monica High School (Samohi),

·        Civic Auditorium. Integrate renovated Civic Auditorium into the surrounding uses, and aligning it with the Community vision in Creative  Capital

·        CCSP Refinement.  Link solutions to the Civic Center Specific Plan

 

Based on the group’s analysis and input from transportation and planning professionals, the following conceptual framework and preliminary concepts have been developed. Following Council direction, additional technical studies will be performed to further refine the concepts:

 

·        Connect the Light Rail Station, Downtown and the Civic Center districts together with an enhanced pedestrian environment so they work together cohesively. Create a pedestrian plaza at the transit station that is a focal point and destination, and create urban design guidelines to complement and enliven the plaza. Widen the sidewalks along Colorado to create a pedestrian boulevard to the Pier, beach and Civic Center by removing one vehicle travel lane. Explore opportunities to operate a trolley or shuttle from the transit station to the Pier. Build key pathways and connections through to the Civic Center.

 

·        Modify the circulation system with the infrastructure needed to move traffic, buses, bicycles, and pedestrians. Evaluate the street grid, and explore the creation of a new street from the westbound I-10 off-ramp to divert traffic away from the 4th and Colorado intersection and to reduce conflicts with Big Blue Bus on 4th Street. The street could connect to Main Street via a westbound bridge over the freeway. It could also extend west to Ocean Avenue, with the flexibility for temporary road closures between Main Street and Ocean Avenue for park events. Any extension through the park needs to be fully evaluated to determine its relationship to and impacts on park activities and character.

 

·        Create additional park and open space by decking the I-10 freeway for all or a part of the section from Ocean Avenue to 4th Street. Integrate enhanced Colorado Avenue streetscape as the northern edge of Palisades Garden Walk (PGW). Create a pedestrian promenade/axis from 2nd Street across the deck and into PGW. Explore the potential for joint development with Holiday Inn to create a new lower building spanning the freeway and thus strengthening the connections between the Civic Center, Palisades Park, the Pier and beach.

 

·        Comprehensively evaluate parking needs to maximize shared use by considering peak demand days, times, and fluctuations caused by events and seasons.  Maximize the value of investment by looking for joint use opportunities for special events, Samohi, the Civic Center Auditorium, and transit. Identify pricing, shuttle and location strategies to minimize construction. Comprehensively look at parking need for facilities/events to maximize shared parking and avoid duplication of parking facilities.

 

·        Enhance cultural facilities through joint use opportunities with Samohi and Civic Center Auditorium. Consider the pedestrian and bicycle linkage by extending the Samohi proposed Michigan Avenue concourse from 7th Street to Main Street.  Consider the potential for a 7th Street bicycle and pedestrian bridge over the freeway. Consider the potential for utilization of the Samohi Amphitheater and Barnum Hall as community cultural venues.

 

The following graphic illustrates the key concepts:

 

 

 

The next steps will be 1) complete an analysis of potential circulation options including a new westbound roadway from 4th Street; 2) initiate the preparation of a comprehensive, area wide Parking Strategy that includes the analysis for shared parking between downtown, the LRT, the Pier, the Civic Center, Civic Auditorium, special events and Samohi; 3) complete a feasibility analysis for freeway decking, 4) identify the appropriate specific joint use opportunities with Samohi, and 5) develop and initiate a public outreach process.  Staff estimates that the combined costs for the studies will be approximately $350,000 which will be paid with funds allocated for Civic Center planning and design.

 

On February 4, 2009, the process and concepts outlined in this report were presented to the Planning Commission. The Planning Commissioners expressed their unanimous support for pursuing the concepts with particular enthusiasm for freeway decking and pedestrian enhancements on the Colorado Avenue segment from the LRT terminus to the Pier. A presentation was made to the Recreation and Parks Commission on March 19, 2009 and their recommendations will be provided to the Council at the Study Session. A crucial concurrent effort is to identify and initiate a community process to consider these proposals and other options. Following the community process, staff will return to Council with an integrated urban design concept and an identification of individual CIP projects that may move forward on independent design tracks according to the coordinated master schedule. This report presents a synopsis of the process for identifying the issues, options and potential solutions.

 

Introduction

Recognizing the importance of coordinated planning, the Civic Center/Downtown working group has been meeting since September 2008 to discuss ways to identify overlap between project sites, recognize conflicts and opportunities, analyze potential solutions, and to develop a master project sequence. Key participating departments include the Big Blue Bus, Community and Cultural Services, Housing and Economic Development, Public Works, and Planning and Community Development.  The interdepartmental working group identified the following key questions in regard to this coordinated planning effort:

 

       LRT Station Area. How can the City capitalize on the LRT terminus station in Downtown and streamline transit connections?

       Pedestrian Facilities. What improvements are needed to create a high-quality pedestrian experience to accommodate increased demand from the LRT station site to downtown, Civic Center, the Pier and the Beach?

       Transit, Bicycle, and Vehicular Circulation. How should the transit, bicycle and vehicular linkages around the station divert traffic at 4th Street and Colorado Avenue and ensure capacity for increased Big Blue Bus connections along 4th Street?

       Second to Main Street Bridge. What are the alternatives to the proposed Second to Main Street Bridge proposed in the CCSP given the conflicts with the preservation of the heritage Moreton Bay Fig tree, the existing Main Street Bridge, and required Holiday Inn land acquisition?

       Palisades Garden Walk Park. What parameters should guide the development of this important community gathering place? How should the park relate to the surrounding private and public uses, Palisades Park, the Pier and the Beach, especially considering increasing demand for shared event parking?

       Santa Monica High School (Samohi) Joint Uses and Parking. How do we optimize the joint-use potential of the Civic Center and Samohi? What are the pedestrian and parking linkages to be incorporated into the Civic Center?

       Civic Auditorium. How do we reposition the Civic Auditorium to align with the community’s vision in Creative Capital? What is its relationship to the adjacent open spaces and cultural facilities at Samohi? What other cultural facilities might be added, and how should the Early Childhood Education Center be integrated into the auditorium?

       Linkage across the I-10 Freeway. What options and implementation strategies are available to deck the I-10 freeway?

       Pier Bridge. How should the Pier Bridge project be designed to accommodate the increased pedestrian need?

       City Services Facility. What are the ways to more efficiently integrate City services space into the area?

 

Based on the group’s analysis and input from transportation and planning professionals, the following conceptual framework and preliminary concepts have been developed. Following Council direction, additional technical studies will be performed to further refine the concepts:

 

·        Connect the Light Rail Station, Downtown and the Civic Center districts together with an enhanced pedestrian environment so that they work together cohesively. Create a pedestrian plaza at the transit station that is a focal point and destination, and create urban design guidelines to complement and enliven the plaza. Widen the sidewalks along Colorado to create a pedestrian boulevard to the Pier, beach and Civic Center by removing one vehicle travel lane. Explore opportunities to operate a trolley or shuttle from the transit station to the Pier. Build key pathways  and connections through to the Civic Center.

 

·        Modify the circulation system with the infrastructure needed to move traffic, buses, bicycles, and pedestrians. Evaluate the street grid, and explore the creation of a new street from the westbound I-10 off-ramp to divert traffic away from the 4th and Colorado intersection and to reduce conflicts with Big Blue Bus along 4th Street. The street could connect to Main Street via a westbound bridge over the freeway. It could also extend west to Ocean Avenue, with the flexibility for temporary road closures between Main Street and Ocean Avenue for park events. Any extension through the park needs to be fully evaluated to determine its relationship to and impacts on park activities and character.

 

·        Create additional park and open space by decking the I-10 freeway for all or part of the section from Ocean Avenue to 4th Street. Integrate enhanced Colorado Avenue streetscape as the northern edge of Palisades Garden Walk (PGW). Create a pedestrian promenade/axis from 2nd Street across the deck and into PGW. Explore the potential for joint development with Holiday Inn to create a new lower building spanning the freeway and thus strengthening the connections between the Civic Center, Palisades Park, the Pier and beach.

 

·        Comprehensively evaluate parking needs to maximize shared use by considering peak demand days, times, and fluctuations caused by events and seasons.  Maximize the value of investment by looking for joint use opportunities for special events, Samohi, the Civic Center Auditorium, and transit. Identify pricing, shuttle and location strategies to minimize construction. Comprehensively look at parking need for facilities/events to maximize shared parking and avoid duplication of parking facilities.

 

·        Enhance cultural facilities through joint use opportunities with Samohi and Civic Center Auditorium. Consider the pedestrian and bicycle linkage by extending the Michigan Avenue concourse from 7th Street to Main Street.  Consider the potential for a 7th Street bicycle and pedestrian bridge over the freeway. Consider the potential for utilization of the Samohi Amphitheater and Barnum Hall as community cultural venues.

 

Background

The Civic Center Specific Plan was approved in June 2005 with the recognition that as individual components became more defined the plan would require refinements. Since the CCSP was approved, the Council has approved, acted on, or given staff specific direction on a number of significant initiatives which are shaping the Downtown and the Civic Center area. In chronological order, these key elements are:

       Remodel of Santa Monica Place - September 2007

       LUCE Strategy Framework – July 2008

       Shared Use Opportunities Study between Samohi and the Civic Auditorium campuses – June 2008

       The Village Housing Development – June 2008

       New Event Policy – December 2008

 

The following two items are currently under review by the City Council:

       Alignment and station location for the Light Rail – Council Discussion February 10, and formal action on March 3, 2009

       Remodel of Bloomingdales Department Store - Before Redevelopment Agency March 24, 2009

 

Staff has begun the early planning phases on the following projects:

       Palisades Garden Walk

       Civic Center Auditorium

       Early Childhood Education Center

       Pier Bridge Reconstruction/Renovation

 

The interdepartmental working group identified the focus areas and individual projects in the district. The focus areas are illustrated below:

FOCUS AREAS

 

Downtown Intermodal Corridor

 

Santa Monica High School

 

Civic Auditorium

 

Palisades Garden Walk

 

Main Street Circulation

 

City Hall Expansion Site

 

Pier Bridge

 

Pier

 

 

 

The group worked together to identify where coordination could result in functional or systemic benefits. The group then reviewed preliminary concepts, and participated in brainstorming solutions. The initial recommendations are outlined in this report.  The group will continue to refine concepts and conduct the necessary in-depth technical analyses and community outreach.

 

Discussion

The Exposition LRT will reduce vehicular trips into the downtown, and provide convenient and fast transit access for Santa Monica. More pedestrians and connecting buses will be using the area roadways, and the following discussion provides insight into how this may modify the downtown and Civic Center areas.  These modifications necessitate a reconsideration of some components of the Civic Center Specific Plan and the southern portion of downtown. A strategic framework for integrating these issues is presented, along with potential solutions. Staff is requesting authorization by the City Council to conduct further analyses, and initiate a community process for this effort.

 

Connecting Civic Center, Downtown and Light Rail

The Civic Center Specific Plan and LUCE Strategic Framework both outline goals to connect Downtown and the Civic Center area. The Civic Center’s expanded community park spaces complement the commercial, residential and retail activity in the Downtown. Connections between the areas are blocked by the I-10 freeway, but the Expo LRT provides a catalyst for re-imagining this relationship, and an opportunity to transform circulation patterns to further integrate the Civic Center and Downtown through increased pedestrian connections, shared parking, and decking over portions of the freeway. Pedestrian access and amenities are being considered throughout the area, however, a key component is to link the LRT Station to the pier and beach through improvements to Colorado Avenue as described below.

 

Pedestrian Increase - Passengers from the Expo LRT, at the station and on adjacent sidewalks, could number 1,600 to 4,800 per hour. Enhanced streetscape environments and facilities are required to accommodate the pedestrian flow to connect to bus and shuttle routes, the Downtown, the Civic Center, the Pier, Palisades Park and the beach. The major pedestrian demand will occur at 4th Street and Colorado Avenue. Pedestrian routes will be primarily along 4th Street, Colorado Avenue, and through Santa Monica Place to the Promenade and Downtown.

 

Pedestrian Enhancements-Improving Colorado to the Santa Monica Pier - Initial design concepts for the LRT Station envision a large plaza at 4th and Colorado.  Macerich and Bloomingdale’s are in the process of designing a significant corner store entrance across from the station with widened sidewalks and pedestrian oriented display windows. The working group recommends creating a segment of Colorado Avenue that is primarily a pedestrian promenade to the Santa Monica Pier. This would be done by reducing the vehicular capacity from 4 to 3 lanes and widening the sidewalks on each side by 8 feet.  To coordinate this concept with the Pier Bridge Project (see Pier Bridge Project description below) and the CCSP concept of pedestrian linkage between Palisades Park and the new Palisades Garden Walk, the concept includes significant pedestrian improvements at the intersection of Colorado, Ocean Avenue and the Pier Bridge.  Enhancing these connections will not only improve the pedestrian experience but provide opportunity for additional open space and/or public/private partnerships that generate sales tax by capturing the business of the pedestrian shopper, potentially offsetting the cost of the improvements.

 

             

 

Reconfiguring the Circulation System

In addition to more pedestrians, the amount of bicycle and transit traffic will increase on area streets when the Expo LRT opens.  In order to function well for all modes, conflicts need to be minimized.  Automobiles and buses need to be redistributed to avoid the Colorado Avenue and 4th Street intersection as well as the Colorado Avenue to Ocean Avenue street segment. The conceptual solution proposed is to shift vehicles away from the terminus station at the intersection of 4th Street and Colorado Avenue by reconnecting a portion of the street grid westbound from the 4th Street freeway off-ramp to Main Street. The following background identifies the existing and anticipated traffic conflicts, necessitating consideration of an alternative roadway.

 

Transit and Vehicle Interface- A major Big Blue Bus interface with the LRT stations will take place on 4th Street, with bus stops located on both the east and west sides of the street. Fourth Street currently has more bus trips than any other street in the City, and service will be increased to accommodate the light rail passengers transferring to area buses. The street also carries significant vehicle traffic, and is a key connection to the eastbound on-ramp and westbound off-ramp for the I-10 freeway. At peak times traffic current traffic flow can operate as low as 6 MPH, essentially walking pace. With the light rail station in place additional pedestrian traffic and transit service will lead to further congestion for all modes. A substantial effort is needed to avoid intersection failure at 4th and Colorado, and shift vehicles away from this key pedestrian, bicycle and transit interface location.

 

Reconnect the Street Grid and Evaluate the Main Street Bridge- The existing street pattern, in which the formal street grid is interrupted, exacerbates circulation and congestion issues by preventing smooth flow through the Civic Center into the downtown.  The CCSP addressed the interruption of the street pattern through the addition of Olympic Drive from Fourth Street to Ocean Avenue.Text Box:   The CCSP plan also calls for a new bridge connecting Main Street with Second Street.  Initial investigation indicates that the construction of the bridge as shown in the CCSP is challenged by the need to protect and allow for the future growth of a Moreton Bay Fig Tree located on the south side of I-10, and potential need for Holiday Inn site or air rights acquisition.   Given the need to reconsider the bridge identified in the CCSP, and the need to address the circulation issues outlined above, the interdepartmental group investigated a range of possible solutions. The group recommends exploring the continuation of the grid by creating an east-west street segment from the 4th Street I-10 west-bound off-ramp directly to Main Street, through the existing City Hall North parking lot. At Main Street, traffic could disperse to the north and south. This street extension requires building a bridge over the freeway at 4th Street in lieu of the bridge connecting 2nd Street to Main Street.  The existing Main Street to Colorado Avenue bridge could be rehabilitated for both auto and pedestrian traffic with a focus on retaining its historic character.  This recommendation preserves options to both protect and celebrate the heritage tree and avoids conflicts with the Holiday Inn property. The circulation study could also evaluate the potential benefits and drawbacks to continuing one or two lanes of this new 4th to Main Street extension (Fujiamoya Douri Extension) through to Ocean Avenue. While this extension could provide additional flexibility and traffic/circulation benefits, the character of Palisades Garden Walk in the CCSP would transition from a strolling beach side “walk” to a more formal urban garden. This concept would allow for closing the street for park uses whenever necessary.  An evaluation of extending a street through to Ocean Avenue would focus on maintaining the character of the park.

 

 

Creating Additional Park and Open Space - Decking the Freeway

A key recommendation of the CCSP was to explore options for decking the freeway. Decking could be a range of lengths, consisting of any or all of the following segments: 1) 100’ extension of the McClure tunnel at Ocean and Colorado Avenue to facilitate connection between Palisades Park and Palisades Garden Walk; 2) Deck spanning from Ocean Avenue to Main Street; and/or 3) a deck spanning from Main Street to 4th Street. The full span from Ocean Avenue to 4th Street would create an additional 4 acres of land for open space, parks, and pedestrian connections between Downtown and the Civic Center. The deck would integrate the enhanced Colorado Avenue streetscape with the northern edge of Palisades Garden Walk, and create a pedestrian promenade/axis from 2nd Street across the deck, under the heritage tree, and into the new PGW.  Freeway capping also provides opportunities for additional “green” solutions to upgrade the tunnel technology to filter freeway fumes, improving air quality in the Civic Center and high-school environment.

 

The interdepartmental working group has also explored concepts that include joint development opportunities created by the freeway decks. Options could include a building site on the deck, or under the deck in the freeway embankment areas, to increase funding opportunities through public/private funding, and opportunities for relocating the Holiday Inn and expanding city service areas.

 

To determine the feasibility of options for decking, bridging, and/or placing buildings over the I-10 freeway, an interdepartmental team met with Caltrans representatives and members of the development team for the Hollywood Freeway Cap Park. Both groups encouraged the City to further explore all options.   The next step would be a feasibility study to analyze the opportunities presented by capping the freeway and to identify both public and private funding sources. With City Council authorization of the Study Session approach, an RFP will be sent out to initiate this study.

 

While the circulation improvements do not require freeway decking, the project area would be greatly improved if the freeway could be decked from 4th street to Ocean Avenue.

 

Comprehensive Parking Evaluation

The interdepartmental group considered four recent major initiatives impacting parking demand in the study area:

 

       Light Rail terminus in the downtown

       Parking for events at the 1550 lot and the Pier

       Continued build-out of the CCSP

       Completion of the downtown parking plan

 

The City of Santa Monica must optimize the use of existing parking, and should ensure that any new parking is strategically developed to serve multiple uses. The working group recommends a comprehensive parking evaluation would support an extended district including the Civic Center uses, Samohi, the downtown south of Arizona, and the LRT terminus. The evaluation would incorporate the anticipated conversion of existing surface parking lots in the Civic Center to open space and new uses, as proposed in CCSP.

 

Potential Parking Sites

 
Creating a true shared use district which balances parking demand and economic return requires an optimal mix of investment in new parking, coordinated management of existing parking, and access improvements.

 

Potential parking sites

 

Consideration of usage patterns by time of day, and day of the week are keys to developing a shared parking strategy that maximizes use in relation to investment. PCD staff has sent out an RFP for a parking consultant to analyze demand, identify capacity and recommend locations and operations for a shared parking program.

 

Joint Use Opportunities with Santa Monica High School and Civic Center

A critical component of the Civic Auditorium District is the landmark Civic Auditorium. Both the Civic Center Specific Plan (CCSP) and Creative Capital place a high priority on renovation and upgrades to this historic structure.  Creative Capital made it clear that the use and programming of the Civic Auditorium should align with the community’s vision, and the options for revenue generation and private partnerships need to be weighed against an anticipated on-going public subsidy.  A separate agenda item is being presented at this meeting which requests authorization to seek qualifications from firms interested in partnering with the City to ensure the Auditorium’s renovation and repositioning as a vital cultural hub with the Civic Center.  Once the Auditorium component is better understood, staff will be able to plan for additional cultural facilities which will complement and complete cultural offerings in the Civic Center and at Samohi’s Greek Theater and Barnum Hall. As the plans for the Civic Auditorium progress it will be important to analyze scenarios for creating the most effective shared parking district.

·        The Shared Use Opportunities Study between Samohi and the Civic Auditorium campuses in conjunction with the High School master planning effort was reviewed by the City Council in July 2008. In keeping with the LUCE goals of supporting multi-modal transportation and improving pedestrian access city-wide, one key element of the joint use proposal was to re-open Michigan Avenue as a pedestrian and bicycle pathway through the Samohi campus, connecting through the Civic Center to Main Street.  Anticipating this connection and coordinating uses through the Civic Auditorium and the High School cultural facilities of Barnum Hall and the Greek Theater, the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District is proposing a partnership between the City and the School District for the purpose of funding a Civic Center Joint Use Project which also includes athletic and shared parking facilities that can be used for faculty and student use and shared with these event venues. The School District has submitted a CIP request for the Civic Center Joint Use Project on School District property which will be considered by City Council as part of the Capital Improvement Program budget discussion and the Redevelopment Agency priorities.

 

       7th Street Bridge and Michigan Avenue Connection - The LUCE proposes a pedestrian and bicycle bridge over the I-10 freeway at 7th Street which would further improve bike and pedestrian opportunities for high school students, and reduce congestion. With the light rail terminus in downtown, this type of connection expands the multi-modal transportation options to include rail.

 

       Proposed CCSP Roundabout - In light of the Michigan Avenue connection and the opportunities for rehabilitating the Civic Auditorium, the charette team reviewed the locations and functionality of the roundabout proposed in the CCSP. The team determined that the roundabout does not serve a circulation purpose. If the circle functions as an urban design focal point, the team recommended that the location and character be re-evaluated as the surrounding projects become more defined. In addition, there has been concern about safety issues if the traffic circle were installed as envisioned. Council deferred a definitive decision about the circle design until it could be reviewed in the larger context of the entire Civic Center.

 

Concurrent Projects

There are a number of specific projects in the area which are currently in planning stages. As each of these projects come before the City Council, the staff recommendation will describe the project’s integration into the Downtown and Civic Center area. Concurrent projects which are included in the overall circulation and parking strategy analyses include the following:

 

Pier Bridge Options - The Pier Bridge provides access to the Santa Monica Pier, a landmark of international stature and a key destination point for future light rail patrons.  The Pier Bridge also provides primary access to businesses located on the pier. The bridge is currently eligible for federal funding to improve bridge safety.  The scope of design work for the project includes widening and rehabilitation of the bridge to bring the structure up to the current standards for both pedestrian and vehicle access.  A draft EIR was circulated and comments were received from the public and a number of City Commissions. The overriding direction from the public was to create Pier access that primarily served the pedestrian and bicyclists, and vehicles as a secondary consideration. While the comments were being addressed Caltrans indicated that due to the age and existing condition of the structure; a rehabilitation project may not be eligible for federal funding whereas a complete replacement would be eligible. As a replacement project was not previously considered in the project scope, the original project description must be revised. This provides an opportunity to design the Pier Bridge in light of the anticipated changes in the downtown circulation. Council review of the options for Pier Bridge rehabilitation and replacement is scheduled for hearing this spring.

 

Palisades Garden Walk - Palisades Garden Walk has long been considered a central element of the Civic Center Area. In earlier planning stages, Main Street was re-aligned on a diagonal to accommodate protecting the heritage Morton Bay Fig tree, and to connect to 2nd Street, thus shifting the northern park boundary.  In refining the plan to accommodate LRT pedestrians and circulation, and also decking the freeway, the park can be both increased in size and incorporated into the street grid. This both improves access and provides the necessary parameters for initiating the park design.

 

Early Childhood Education Center (ECEC)-The CCSP calls for a childcare center with a 12,500 square-foot building and 7,500 square feet of outdoor play area. Santa Monica College (SMC) has come forward to participate in the financing, design, construction and operation of the ECEC as a laboratory and teaching program for its Early Childhood Education students. SMC included the ECEC in its voter-approved 2004 bond measure (Measure S).  A private operator will be selected by SMC to operate the facility which will serve as a preschool for 100 children, including up to 24 spaces for infants and toddlers. SMC Early Education Studies students will be able to participate in the center’s services, observe children and teachers in daily interactions, and attend classes on site in a lecture hall.   SMC and City staff have worked collaboratively to begin planning for this new center.  The City Council approved $1.1 million to assist in the planning, design and development of the facility and the City has also secured $500,000 contributions each from the RAND Corporation and the Related Companies toward design, construction, operation and/or maintenance of the ECEC.  For its part, SMC has secured bond financing in the amount of $7 million towards design and construction costs.  As was the case with the development of the Santa Monica Swim Center, a formal agreement is needed between the City and SMC that sets out roles, responsibilities, financing and operational details impacting the design, construction and operation of the new facility.   A separate agenda item is being considered this evening that recommends that the City Council authorize the City Manager to initiate formal negotiations geared towards producing an agreement whose terms can be brought to both the City Council and College Board of Trustees for review and approval.

 

Conclusion

With Council’s direction and support of the integrated interdepartmental approach, the next steps would be to complete the key framework analyses (circulation and parking strategy), and to develop and initiate a community process to consider the options.

Staff recommends that the City Council authorize staff to advance the following efforts:

       proceed with RFQ for Civic Auditorium use,

       proceed with the Comprehensive Shared Parking Strategy,

       initiate a community review and input process for projects to integrate multi-modal circulation into the CCSP,

       continue to analyze circulation and potential street grid changes,

       reconsider the 2nd to Main Street Bridge,

       develop Colorado streetscape concepts to enhance pedestrian quality and capacity,

       complete a feasibility study for decking the I-10 freeway, considering Caltrans requirements and private sector involvement opportunities,

       evaluate BBB and other transit service interface with the Light Rail station,

       analyze revision of the CCSP with respect to the appropriateness of the roundabout,

       study joint use opportunities for development of the LRT station area and pedestrian plaza,

       authorize ECEC agreement negotiations, and

 

Following the community process, staff will return to Council with an integrated urban design concept and an identification of individual CIP projects that may move forward on independent design tracks according to the coordinated master schedule.

 

Financial Impacts & Budget Actions

By 2009 year-end, the Redevelopment Agency (Agency) will need to adopt the next Five-Year Implementation Plan (FY 2009-10 through FY 2013-14).  All of the above-mentioned projects may be eligible to be included as one or more of the Redevelopment Agency funding priorities. As part of adoption of the Implementation Plan, the Redevelopment Agency will consider other priorities and trade-offs among projects that are eligible for redevelopment funding. In addition, staff is pursuing grant applications for the Civic Center Park (Palisades Garden Walk) with the California Department of Housing and Community Development under its Proposition 1C Infill Infrastructure Grant Program and will identify the appropriate projects for which state or federal funding can be pursued.

 

There is no immediate financial impact associated with the study session discussion. Staff estimates approximately $350,000 will be needed for the parking study, framework and freeway capping analyses, which would be funded through the existing CIP for “Civic Center Planning and Design” (account #C170772). Council direction will allow staff to appropriately analyze and cost estimate projects and prepare recommendations for programs to be included as part of the Redevelopment Agency’s 2009-10 through 2013-14 Implementation Plan, METRO Call for Projects, and the federal funding associated with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

 

Long-term funding for operations and maintenance will be required for many of the proposed capital improvements, including public parks, public facilities and joint-use facilities at Santa Monica High School.  When the City Council considers capital funding priorities, the City’s ability to fund the operations and maintenance of capital improvements will be a critical consideration at that time.

 

Prepared by:     Sarah Lejeune, AICP, Principal Planner

 

 

Approved:

 

Forwarded to Council:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eileen Fogarty

Director, Planning and Community Development

 

P. Lamont Ewell

City Manager