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City Council Report

City Council Meeting: May 14, 2013

Agenda Item: 8-A

 

To:             Mayor and City Council 

From:        David Martin, Director of Planning and Community Development

Subject:   Colorado Esplanade Final Design and CCSP Amendment

 

Recommended Action

Staff recommends that the City Council:

1.    Approve the final design for the full Colorado Esplanade as proposed, direct staff to prepare a bid package, and solicit bids for the reduced footprint core project;

2.    Amend the CCSP to eliminate the 2nd Street Bridge Extension as a public improvement, and replace with the planned Main to 2nd Street alignment proposed by the Colorado Esplanade project.

Executive Summary

This report recommends approval of the final design for the Colorado Esplanade, a circulation infrastructure and streetscape project located between the future terminus of the regional Expo light rail line, the Downtown, and one of the City’s most prominent landmarks, the Santa Monica Pier.  Due to funding limitations, this report recommends a first phase of construction for a core project with a slightly reduced footprint from the project presented at the February 14, 2012 Council meeting.  Additional funding is being sought to construct the full project in subsequent phases.  Also recommended in this report is a minor amendment of the Civic Center Specific Plan (CCSP) to achieve the CCSP vision for connecting the Civic Center and Downtown Districts by replacing the 2nd Street Bridge concept with the proposed Esplanade alignment of Main and 2nd Streets.

 

With the arrival of the Exposition Light Rail in 2016, the Esplanade project would resolve the complex circulation needs adjacent to the new Expo Light Rail station at 4th Street/Colorado Avenue, including provision of additional space to safely accommodate anticipated pedestrian surges.  The project would address the community vision for an integrated light rail system, easily accessed from key destinations and by multiple travel modes.  The final design of the Colorado Esplanade by Peter Walker Partners (PWP) organizes arrival/departure for drivers, bicyclists, pedestrians and bus and transit patrons, while creating a City gateway that integrates the beach, Civic Center and Downtown.

This report summarizes the design refinements which have occurred since the Council update on February 14, 2012 including a construction and funding phasing strategy in response to budget changes over the past year.  Staff is requesting that the City Council approve the full design scope of the project as outlined herein.

The current estimate for the full project is $13.5 million.  The estimate for the reduced footprint core project is $10.7 million, of which $9.7 million is secured pending Council approval of the FY 2013-14 CIP Exception Based Budget in June 2013.  The core project includes the re-alignment of Second and Main Streets, critical infrastructure upgrades on Colorado Avenue between Ocean Avenue and 4th Street, and the connection between the future station, the Pier and the new Civic Center parks, but does not include the areas directly adjacent to the station between 4th and 5th Streets, the Gateway Triangle, or the proposed improvements for 4th Street north of Colorado. 

A proposed minor amendment to the Civic Center Specific Plan (CCSP) is also included in this report for Council approval, proposing to replace the 2nd Street Bridge concept, previously envisioned in the CCSP, with the reconfigured roadway included in the Esplanade design which achieves the same goals of the CCSP. 

The Planning Commission has reviewed and supports the CCSP amendment and the project design components, which implement Land Use and Circulation Element goals to encourage walking, biking and transit, while addressing vehicle congestion in Santa Monica.  And, in compliance with California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), a Mitigated Negative Declaration for the project was adopted by Council on March 19, 2013.  

 

 

Background

In anticipation of the Light Rail, the City and community have been defining a vision specifically for the Downtown/Civic Center station area through a series of long-range planning efforts, beginning with the Civic Center Specific Plan (2005), the Land Use and Circulation Element (LUCE 2010) and continuing with the Downtown Specific Plan and significant investment in civic projects which are currently in various stages of procurement, design, and construction:

·         4th and Arizona

·         Pier Bridge replacement

·         Early Childhood Education Center

·         Tongva Park and Ken Genser Square

·         The Civic Center Village

·         Parking Structure 6

·         Expo Light Rail Terminus Station

Serving the increase in pedestrians and responding to the roadway changes being made by the Light Rail requires re-consideration of the circulation networks immediately adjacent and leading to the stations. 

Description: Description: Description: westbound only esplanadeThe Expo Light Rail will reconfigure Colorado Avenue from 17th to 5th Streets to one-lane in either direction with the light rail tracks and guideway located in the middle of the street. The vehicle lanes in the block of Colorado between 5th and 4th Streets will become one-way in the westbound direction in order to accommodate the light rail station and optimal light rail operations. Temporary construction barriers were installed in February 2013 that initiated the one-way flow. The final westbound-only configuration will provide one through-lane and a dedicated left-turn lane at 4th Street.   On February 14, 2012 the Council reviewed the Esplanade schematic design and circulation alternatives. The Esplanade project traffic analysis determined the benefit of continuing the one-way traffic from 4th Street all the way to Ocean Avenue, therefore reducing the number of turn movements, providing a corresponding improvement in flow, and allowing signal timing adjustments to accommodate increased pedestrians without compromising vehicle flow into the downtown.

The design scope for Peter Walker Partners included the schematic design of the station plaza to ensure seamless integration with the Esplanade, including connections and orientation/wayfinding opportunities as passengers both leave and approach the station.  The Downtown Station Plaza will be constructed by Expo as part of the City’s betterments for the Downtown Station. PWP has coordinated with the major stakeholders, the City, Metro and Expo, to refine the station design in order to address access, maintenance, construction cost and Metro operating criteria.

 

A.           The Esplanade project is supported by Land Use & Circulation Element (LUCE) Goal D2, to maximize placemaking associated with the Expo Light Rail station and create vibrant Downtown gateways through the Colorado Esplanade project. The Esplanade also creates a critical piece of the diverse transportation network needed to achieve the No Net New PM Peak trips target.   The Colorado Esplanade project is also consistent with the Open Space Element as it creates wider parkways, makes clear visual and pedestrian linkages between the streetscape, open space and adjacent parks, and implements Objective 7, using open space to shape the urban landscape and create a sense of place, reinforcing “Streets as Public Open Space”. 

 

The 2005 Civic Center Specific Plan update called for the re-alignment of 2nd Street and Main Street with a new bridge across the freeway to streamline north-south access.  Due to proximity of the potential bridge footings to the Moreton Bay fig tree and the Wyndham Hotel (formerly the Holiday Inn) property and the cost considerations, it was determined that the new bridge concept approved as part of the CCSP was infeasible, as outlined to the City Council in a March 24, 2009 staff report. The Colorado Esplanade design achieves the streamlined roadway alignment intended in the CCSP while preserving this significant tree, and at a substantially lower cost.  It is proposed to amend the CCSP at this time to reflect the proposed realignment included in the Esplanade proposal. At their June 20, 2012 meeting, the Planning Commission recommended approval of the proposed CCSP Amendment (Attachment A).

Previous Council discussions over the last two years have supported the continued Esplanade planning process beginning with the Council’s identification of the project as a funding priority in the Civic Center/Downtown district on May 24, 2011.  On June 28, 2011 Council authorized a contract with Peter Walker and Partners Landscape Architecture to design the Colorado Esplanade and prepare construction bid documentation.

 

Council has provided direction on development of the Esplanade and Downtown Station design on four occasions, beginning with a presentation on September 13, 2011 of proposals for improved Downtown Station layout and access.  The Esplanade project was presented to City Council for review of the schematic design on February 14, 2012.  The Council discussed the project in the context of considering capital improvement priorities on May 22, 2012, at which time the project budget was adjusted from redevelopment to general fund sources.  In compliance with California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) requirements, the proposed Colorado Esplanade project was evaluated through a Mitigated Negative Declaration that was adopted by Council on March 19, 2013. The traffic analysis for the MND found that vehicle circulation would improve over current conditions as the one-way reconfiguration reduces turning movements at the intersections. 

The project is moving forward with a schedule and design that is coordinated with the Expo Station, Olympic Drive extension, and California Incline. In addition to working with the Expo Construction Authority and the light rail design-build contractor on the Downtown station plaza to meet the City’s urban integration criteria and Metro Operations requirements, the design team has also coordinated with Big Blue Bus and Metro on bus rerouting options in and around the Esplanade and station.

 

Discussion

The transformation of Colorado Avenue from a vehicular corridor to a multi-modal hub is the starting point for the design of the proposed Colorado Esplanade and Downtown Station Plaza. The designer was directed to meet the needs of a growing number of pedestrians and bicyclists, to provide a safe venue for multiple travel modes that connects them to the Downtown, Oceanfront and Civic Center, while maintaining an optimal flow for vehicular traffic - all in time to be ready for the opening of the station.

 

Throughout the outreach process members of the community supported the project for its role in preparing the City’s infrastructure for the arrival of the Light Rail, while implementing the community vision to serve pedestrians, bicyclists, transit riders and drivers and to create meaningful places for people in public rights of way. Community comments prioritized achieving both the circulation benefits, and creating an iconic gateway.  Comments provided during the wide-ranging outreach process are captured in these overarching themes:

·         Description: Description: Description: esplanade new dayView corridor: Preserving and improving the view to the Pier sign was considered the highest design priority. 

·         Durability and maintenance: Using elements that could withstand heavy use and minimal maintenance is of critical importance to City departments and Downtown Santa Monica Inc.

·         Overhead lighting: The festive sensibility, reduced clutter, and improved view corridor to the Pier sign provided by the overhead lighting garnered widespread support for the overhead lighting.

·         Coordination of all travel modes with area access: All groups expressed the desire to improve circulation. Bicycle experts as well as City, property owner and DTSM, Inc. representatives noted the necessity to coordinate vehicle, bus, pedestrian, and bike flow at the entrance to Parking Structure 8.  Improving these conditions informed the decision for the southern location of the widened sidewalk and cycle track, in turn allowing for sufficient land area to create the necessary road geometry to realign 2nd and Main Streets.

·         Wayfinding: All groups expressed the desire for improved wayfinding at this complex crossroads. Many people were interested in ways that the design elements can provide wayfinding cues, such as custom pavers, the intersection treatments, the orientation of the stairs at the station, and the opportunity for the views that allow visual orientation from the station platform.  Several stakeholders requested additional investment for 4th Street streetscape improvements, commensurate to the Colorado Esplanade, to guide Expo patrons north into the downtown.

·         Emergency and universal access: Stakeholders appreciated that the design seamlessly meets strict safety and disabled access requirements, including opportunities to sit or rest; improves the station ramp experience with design refinements to the pathway and environs; and proposes lighting, roadway and curb designs that have been coordinated and developed with input from fire and police personnel.

 

City staff and the Peter Walker Partners (PWP) design team have been working with local stakeholders and the community since Summer 2011 to produce a streetscape and circulation design that reflects the ideas of Boards and Commissions, area property owners, residents and City departments and enjoys strong community support. The project’s goals of sustainability, high quality of design and universal access respond to core community values as represented by the five essential defining elements of the Esplanade project:

1)    Reconfiguration of the public right of way to provide multi-modal traffic improvements - supporting pedestrian safety and congestion management

·         A wide pedestrian sidewalk,

·         Separated bike facility,

·         Westbound vehicle/bus lanes that continue westbound movement created by Expo; and

·         Realignment of Main Street to 2nd Street that achieves the Civic Center Specific Plan vision;

2)    Custom sidewalk paving - referencing rippling waves and sand forms, reflecting Santa Monica’s natural environment;

3)    Unique lighting - maintaining the view corridor and providing vibrancy and safety at night;

4)    Large framing trees and a multi-sensory landscape palette - identifying an important City site;

5)    Gateway designs at the street intersections of 4th Street, Main Street and Ocean Avenue - marking major crossroads.

 

Description: Description: Description: SITE PLAN

Core Project:  $10.7 Million Reduced Footprint

Description: Description: Description: Core Project Limits diagram

The full project vision is estimated to cost $13.5 Million.  Due to project budget changes following the elimination of redevelopment funds, City staff and PWP have value engineered the project and have also identified a reduced core project to achieve the critical circulation changes to accommodate the Expo Light Rail and meet the expectations of the community and stakeholders without compromising the project quality.  Future phases including the areas directly adjacent to the station between 4th and 5th Streets, the Gateway Triangle, and the proposed improvements for 4th Street north of Colorado will be prioritized as funding becomes available.  

 

Description: Description: Description: downtown stationDowntown Santa Monica Station

The Expo 4th Street Station is outside of the scope of the Colorado Esplanade Project and will be constructed by the Expo Construction Authority, but the integration of the two projects is critical to the success of both projects.  This report includes a description of the station to provide context for how the two projects interconnect.  The coordinated Esplanade and Station Plaza design creates opportunities for visual orientation and wayfinding, and provides for a fluid arrival experience.  The elevated platform allows views up 4th Street into Downtown.  The natural slope of the ground drops toward the west to create additional views from the station platform level to the Pacific Ocean and Tongva Park, and from the landing and sidewalk plaza levels down the Colorado Esplanade to the Pier Sign, allowing visitors to easily orient themselves and find their destinations.     

The final north ramp-and-stair configuration of the station creates a triangular space between the ramp, stairs, and sidewalk. The grand stairs are designed to open onto the sidewalk Esplanade paving, and an art or garden wall is designed along the ramp.  Within the triangular space, the original PWP schematic design included an amphitheater seating element, in wood or composite wood, to visually connect the station plaza to the Pier, and to merge the experience of arriving in Santa Monica with arriving at the water’s edge.  However, based on material restrictions in Metro’s Design Criteria, maintenance concerns from Metro and the City, and concerns about universal access to the amphitheater, PWP redesigned the space to be a series of terraced gardens that can be equally shared by all pedestrians whether they use the stairs, the ramp, or pass by the station. 

Description: Description: Description: station plazaThe new north entrance design simplifies wayfinding and enhances the north ramp.  The garden terraces are designed with bold landscaping to create a sense of place, featuring fragrant and colorful plants and signaling arrival.  Whether exiting from the north ramp or stairs, the pedestrian would step out of the station directly onto the Colorado Esplanade, where additional visual cues of ripple-patterned pavers and string lights create a dramatic yet uniquely Santa Monica arrival experience and a sensory connection to the water’s edge.

 

Design: Colorado Esplanade Streetscape and Circulation Infrastructure Features

The Colorado Esplanade design includes the incorporation of functional and safety design improvements that are woven together respectfully with adjacent private and public spaces. Implementing a community priority to reduce visual clutter and simplify the complexity of the existing conditions, PWP applied a limited design palette of five defining elements to unify functional elements and to orient and direct people through integrated urban design.  The result is a sequence of paths, intersections and gateways that provide definition, meaning, and improved functionality, while creating a sense of place for people at this critical city junction.

Streetscape Design Elements

A.  
Description: Description: Description: view corridor Description: Description: Description: alignment

Street Cross Section: In February 2012, the Council reviewed numerous street configurations including conceptual recommendations for one-way vehicle flow that continues the westbound only flow between 4th and 5th Streets created by the Expo station.  While the redesigned traffic lanes appropriately calm traffic in an area filled with pedestrians and cyclists, the one-way direction keeps vehicle traffic moving.  The narrowness of the one-way traffic zone also avoids overwhelming the corridor with fast-moving traffic. With the new configuration, vehicles, bicyclists and pedestrians can equally share the Santa Monica experience of traveling towards the Pier Sign, the symbolic end of Route 66. 

Design refinements: By aggregating pedestrian space on the southern side and pushing the strong frame of street trees to the outer edge, the generous sidewalk and cycle track become part of the view corridor and the procession towards the ocean, which was previously centered on vehicle traffic. 

With the expanded pedestrian and bicycle facilities on the south side of Colorado, the southern side gains enough land area for Main Street to be realigned almost directly with 2nd Street, eliminating the existing roadway jog and one of the existing signalized intersections.  The costly realignment was not included in the original concept for the Esplanade but the design team recognized that this single infrastructural improvement would manifest valuable benefits for each mode: fewer intersections for pedestrians and cyclists to cross, and an improved north-south traffic flow for vehicles.  This realignment would fulfill the vision of the Civic Center Specific Plan, better connecting the Downtown and Civic Center Districts, and improving access between them.

Description: Description: Description: CROSS SECTIONTo provide clarity about where each road user should be positioned, and in response to community requests, the cross section is designed with two buffer elements, both low enough not to interfere with the view to the Pier sign: 

·         Description: Description: Description: BUFFRERSthe cycle track is separated from the vehicles by a 3’ wide and 6” high curb, designed to be mountable for emergency vehicles;

·         the pedestrian walkway is separated from the cycle track by a standard sidewalk curb and pedestrian buffer, designed as small benches to provide a brief respite along the length of the Esplanade.  The Commission for the Senior Community and the Disabilities Commission particularly noted the benefit of these elements, while other stakeholders requested that the design be further refined.

The Wyndham Hotel (formerly the Holiday Inn), Sears and Santa Monica Place representatives requested specific design details to ensure access to their driveways, and PWP and City staff have responded with design elements to optimize driveway access such as: bike box and stop bar striping, pedestrian bollards, differentiated driveway pavement treatments, and a combination of bicycle signal heads, vehicle signal heads, and pedestrian indications which will allow the flexibility of signal operations at the Colorado/Main/2nd Street intersection. There was a specific request for traffic analysis to ensure that the proposed one-way vehicle design did not impact the efficiency of vehicle traffic.  The traffic study found that due to the simplification of intersection movements, traffic flow was improved.  Some trips dispersed to parallel streets north and south, including the new Olympic Drive extension between Main Street and Ocean Avenue, but were sufficiently diversified so as not to create impacts.

Funding: The street cross section, including both sides of Colorado and the Main to Second Street realignment, is essential to the remaining design components, and is therefore recommended as part of the core project.

B.   Description: Description: Description: CYCLE TRACKCycle Track: The previous version reviewed by Council explored bicycle facility options to connect the areas between Ocean Avenue and the Pier to the Expo Station, and included alternatives on both sides of the street and a separated bike facility (“cycle track”) located adjacent to the south curb.  Working closely with Santa Monica Spoke and City staff,  PWP is designing the City’s first separated cycle track based on staff and stakeholder input and industry best practices.    

Design Refinements: The new facility is designed to include 6’ lanes in each direction and a 3’ raised lane divider to separate bicycles from vehicles. It would also include state-of-the-art bike facility pavement markings and signal timing at intersections to ensure optimal connection with the new Bike Center, future Pier Bridge bicycle improvements, and the City’s existing bicycle network.  The separated cycle track on the south side is the preferred solution to minimize conflicts, especially at busy public garage driveways on the north side of Colorado. The separate facility would allow better defined intersections with optimal signalizations for all modes. The Main to 2nd Street realignment would connect the Main Street bike lane directly to the new Bike Center and Downtown.  The cycle track would also serve an ancillary purpose as a circumnavigation route for emergency vehicles during incidents. A future bike connection through the 4th Court alley would connect the Downtown Station to the bike lanes on Broadway. 

Funding: As a key component for Metro grant eligibility, the cycle track is fundamental to the street cross section and is therefore recommended as part of the core project.

 

Description: Description: Description: GATEWAY CONCEPTSsC. Gateway Triangle: Just as the 4th Street and Ocean Avenue intersections are designed to signify strong north-south connections between Downtown and the Civic Center, the gateway triangle design creates a strong visual gateway to City Hall, the Civic Auditorium and Civic Center parks. The gateway triangle is an opportunity for a newly enlarged public space created by realigning Main and 2nd Streets.  An earlier concept called for the re-location of the ficus trees on Colorado to the new public space, extending the concept of the ficus grove in Tongva Park across the freeway.  However, the City Urban Forester expressed concern that the ficus trees are approaching the end of their natural life and would likely not survive the roadway and sidewalk reconstruction or relocation to another site.

Description: Description: Description: GATEWAY TRIANGLE

Design refinements: The refined design presents a hybrid of early concepts, showing a small plaza at the convergence of a pinwheel of accessible pedestrian pathways that cross through planting beds filled with simple, bold and aromatic native or drought-tolerant landscaping.  Based on the community’s input, and supported by the Streets as Public Open Space concept in the Open Space Element, the final design for the triangle was revised to include a higher proportion of planting to paving; yet because the community preferred the formal design of alternating rows of paving and planting shown in an early concept, the new design translated these as different planting types rather than paving.  The rows are oriented north-south, reinforcing the linkage over the freeway between the Downtown and Civic Center Districts.  The Recreation and Parks Commission envisioned the Gateway Triangle as a landscaped pathway to the new parks - a connective open space that would lead people to the adjacent active parks of Town Square and Tongva Park.   The final open space design includes accessible paths and benches, and is designed to serve as a beautifully landscaped gateway that provides a place for the community to stroll through, sit in and enjoy without it being a programmable space. The proposed Gateway Triangle is an inviting entrance to the Civic Center and a potential site for significant public art.  

Funding: The Gateway Triangle is identified as a crucial gateway and orientation element between the Downtown and Civic Center. However, because the open space can be easily constructed in a separate phase when funding becomes available, the Gateway Triangle is excluded from the recommended core project.  Staff is seeking grant funding for the Gateway Triangle. Eligibility for the grant depends on replacing the water thirsty lawn with drought tolerant planting.  Upon staff request for Recreation and Parks Commission endorsement of the grant application, the commissioners requested the grant application language be changed to call the Gateway Triangle a “landscape” or a “garden” rather than a “pocket park”, and pursuant to such commitment from staff, unanimously acted to support the grant application.  In response, staff changed the grant application title to “Gateway Triangle Garden” instead of “Gateway Pocket Park”.    The temporary design proposed for the Gateway Triangle consists of expanding the existing lawn.

Description: Description: Description: PAVINGDescription: Description: Description: COMPASSD. Paving Design: Designed to run along both sides of Colorado between 5th Street and Ocean, the ripple patterned custom concrete sidewalk pavers elevate the pedestrian realm, resonating with the natural wave forms of the ocean and the sand. Santa Monica’s beach is a destination for residents, visitors, and people of all walks of life, and the paver design extends the experience of the beach into the Downtown. These uniquely shaped concrete pavers continue the Santa Monica culture of marking special pathways such as Olympic Drive, the Transit Mall paving on Broadway and Santa Monica, and the Third Street Promenade with identifiable and contextual paving.   

Design refinements: Previous versions of the paving design included in-street pavers, which are now proposed as asphalt surface.  The design for the custom sidewalk paver has changed from a rectilinear to a wave form, and to a reduced size for a more flexible system that would allow for easy repair and maintenance as well as simpler and less expensive installation (as pavers can be popped out and replaced for maintenance or development construction).  Unlike specialty poured concrete, patches would be able to match the original field of pavers.  PWP is currently reviewing several custom colors to specify a color that holds significance to Santa Monica while providing identity to the Esplanade.  Responding to the community desire to simplify signage and improve wayfinding, integrated compass medallions are proposed in the form of inlaid pavers, directing pedestrians toward key destinations in the Downtown, Civic Center and Oceanfront/Beach Districts.

Funding: The paving design, string lighting and bold framing trees proposed by PWP are cost effective yet character-giving design elements of the streetscape, and are therefore proposed as part of the core project. The custom concrete paver material and size have been value engineered for cost effectiveness and ease of maintenance, and provide an identifiable character and importance to the Esplanade.  

 

Description: Description: Description: street lightsE.  Lighting:  Identified by the community as a priority for the Esplanade, the signature string lighting design is one of the essential coordinated and unifying elements providing the unique identity to the project. Chosen for its functional, aesthetic, and low profile qualities, string lighting strengthens the corridor by providing a safe and signature night-time environment with the least amount of visual obstruction for the sidewalk and roadway. For the same cost as the City’s standard light pole, string lights open the view shed for pedestrians looking west toward the Pier.

Design refinements: In response to concerns that string lights might interfere with the view of the Pier sign or detract from a sense of open air, the height of the string lights were raised (to 26 feet above grade) and the designer has confirmed that the lighting would clear the Pier sign, even as viewed from the top of the station platform (11 feet above grade). To address the goal of preserving the view to the Pier Sign and reducing visual clutter, this design proposes to move the vertical poles to the back of the south sidewalk, widening the open view, and eliminating the need for separate roadway and pedestrian light poles. Light poles on the north side of the street would be located in a similar condition to the present. The lights are energy efficient LED bulbs with a 12-½ year lifespan and would provide all required lighting for the Esplanade.  The overhead lights would echo traditional festive Pier lighting and create a distinctive ambiance at night that enlivens the area. During the day, the low profile string lights would provide an unobstructed view to the Pier Sign from the Downtown Station.  At night, the lights would provide a safe, well-lit corridor for pedestrians making transit transfers or just out for a stroll.

Funding: Cost evaluation and maintenance studies conducted early in the Design Development phase confirmed the cost effectiveness of string lighting. In addition, the string lighting preserves the view corridor to the Pier and reduces sidewalk clutter and is therefore recommended for inclusion in the core project.  The informational graphics originally planned for the string light poles have been eliminated from the core project.  Application of graphic information can be added to the poles at a later date if additional funding is identified.

F. Street Trees and Landscape: PWP has designed a strong planting palette and a bold vertical frame of street trees to unify the widened view shed and to soften the roadway hardscape. Fragrant and colorful plants in strong simple patterns reinforce both simplicity and celebratory importance. Guided by the community’s desire for a strong tree element which frames the view, PWP and City staff worked with the City’s Urban Forester, the Urban Forest Task Force Species Subcommittee and the Task Force to propose an appropriate tree species to meet the goals of the City’s adopted Urban Forest Masterplan. The Masterplan deferred the tree species for the Esplanade area to the Council design approval process.  On February 27, 2013, the Task Force selected the Queensland Kauri (Agathis robusta) as their recommendation to Council for the Esplanade tree.  This evergreen tree provides strong framing design features: it is a tall columnar tree with small leaves that Description: Description: Description: TREEprovide dappled shade; the branches grow close to the trunk, meeting the need to maintain the view shed to the Pier Sign and not obscure retail signage; the tree is especially adaptable to tight sidewalk conditions next to building faces; is fast growing and is appropriate to the coastal climate of Santa Monica.  Two alternative evergreen trees discussed at length with the subcommittee are the Canary Island Pine (Pinus canariensis) and the Spotted Gum (Corymbia maculate).  Both alternative trees have impressive stature, and have narrow canopies so as not to impede views to the sign, and both species provide dappled shade and visibility through the canopy and are appropriate to the climate and proposed tree well conditions. The Canary Island Pine is a large pyramidal evergreen tree that is planted throughout the Southern California.  The Spotted Gum is a tall evergreen tree that has a round habit and distinctive bark and leaf coloration. Based on recommendations from the City’s Urban Forester the existing street trees will be relocated if their health permits and replaced by the new
Description: Description: Description: trees

Esplanade trees. 

Funding:  The street trees are character-defining elements of the Esplanade and integral to the symmetrical cross section of the street, and therefore are part of the recommended core project.  The tree sizes have been value engineered from 48” or 60” box size at time of planting to 36”, however, the Agathis robusta is a fast growing tree and is anticipated to thrive in the proposed north side tree wells and south side parkway proposed for Colorado Avenue.

 

G. Public Art: The selection of artist Deborah Aschheim was approved by the Public Art Committee of the Arts Commission at their June 18, 2012 meeting.  Ms. Aschheim, a highly recognized Los Angeles based artist, was selected as a result of a competitive application process.  PWP Design Partner Adam Greenspan participated in the panel interview and selection process, along with Artist Anne Marie Karlsen and Margaret Bruning Director of Civic Art for the Los Angeles County Arts Commission.  PWP will work closely with her to integrate the public art piece within the Colorado Esplanade Project.  The artist will work with the design team and City staff to identify a site for the art, with many prominent potential locations available. Given the prominence of the Colorado Esplanade and its location at a significant crossroads in the City, the public art installation will be an important element in helping to define the urban space and identity of the Esplanade.  Public art is included in the core project.

 

Circulation Infrastructure Features (listed east to west)

1.    Description: Description: Description: station elevation4th Street Intersection and North-South Axis: The 4th Street and Colorado intersection is the eastern edge of the core Esplanade project.  Patterned to reinforce the traditional right angle pedestrian flow at crosswalks, the intersection graphic design marks a key zone where vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists will interface.  The pattern is bold to draw attention to the interface of modes, to provide legibility and safety for all users. The pattern is flexible enough in its design such that it can be altered to accommodate a future scramble intersection if future circulation demands and benefits justify such a change.

The 4th Street gateway into Downtown is an important north-south axis that PWP emphasizes in the design of the Downtown Station configuration and 4th Street streetscape design. The station retaining wall along 4th Street is designed to be legible as a land form, accentuating the station and increasing visibility for people arriving and departing. The station stairs follow the axis line of the wall and direct pedestrians north or south upon arrival.  PWP recommends enhancing the streetscape and continuing the line of Metro signature palm trees on both sides of 4th Street to further reinforce north south connections, to integrate better with the Metro station and to provide orientation and wayfinding elements along the pedestrian route to and from the station and Downtown.   Funding:  The 4th Street / Colorado Avenue intersection improvements are included in the core project.  The original RFP for the Colorado Esplanade Design identified the need to strengthen connections north and south between the Civic Center and Downtown by encouraging the designer to look outside the Metro grant project boundaries for areas or elements to enhance connections.  PWP has designed a widened sidewalk on 4th Street north of Colorado to strengthen the connection from the station to Downtown; however, based on funding limitations, the 4th Street improvements north and south of the intersection are not included in the core project.  City staff has applied for a separate Metro grant to complete these improvements in the future.

Description: Description: Description: Station Plan REV2.  Colorado Avenue, between 4th and 5th Streets:  The interface between the station and the Colorado Esplanade occurs most directly on the block of Colorado between 4th and 5th Streets.  Therefore, the coordination between two separate projects, Expo’s light rail station and the City’s Colorado Esplanade, were central to creating a seamless pedestrian experience.   For schedule and coordination efficiencies due to Expo’s limits of construction on Colorado, the south sidewalk pavers, the cycle track, the roadway and the string lights on both sides of Colorado are being incorporated into the City’s betterment for the Expo 4th Street Station project.  The north sidewalk, also designed with the Esplanade street tree and custom pavers, is outside of the Expo construction limit and would therefore need to be constructed by the City or by adjacent property owners, either in close coordination with Expo, or after Expo construction activities have concluded. 

      Funding:  The proposed improvements for the north side of Colorado between 4th and 5th Streets, including the custom paver and the Esplanade street trees, are not included in the Expo project or in the core Esplanade project. However, if additional funding becomes available, the City will work with Expo and the adjacent property owners to coordinate the schedule and construction of the proposed north sidewalk improvements. 

3.  Main to 2nd Street Realignment and Midblock Crossing at Santa Monica Place:  The realignment of Main Street and 2nd Street is one of the major circulation infrastructural changes proposed by the Colorado Esplanade project.  The realignment eliminates one of the four intersections along the stretch of Colorado between 4th and Ocean, reducing the pedestrian/vehicle conflicts, while improving the north-south vehicle flow.  The realignment of Main to Second Streets is proposed to replace the infeasible bridge concept previously recommended in the Civic Center Specific Plan.   

Description: Description: Description: midblock xing      Just east of the realigned intersection, PWP proposes improvements to the midblock crosswalk between the Santa Monica Place and Sears sites, at the location of the existing signalized crosswalk.  With pedestrian safety and legibility for vehicles in mind, PWP proposes a widened crosswalk pattern similar to the patterns proposed for 4th, Main/2nd, and Ocean, to provide more visibility to drivers, and to indicate an active pedestrian zone.     

      Funding:   The Main to 2nd Street realignment and the midblock crossing are included in the core Esplanade project.

 

4.  Ocean Avenue Intersection & Sidewalk Widening, connecting to the Pier and new Civic Center Parks:  The Ocean / Colorado intersection experiences the highest pedestrian volumes in the City.  The Esplanade design includes a scramble intersection, leading the pedestrian and bicyclist through the intersection both in the traditional right angle movement as well as diagonally, to encourage the connection between the new Tongva Park and the existing historic Palisades Park as envisioned by the Civic Center Specific Plan. PWP has designed a special pattern for the intersection that extends the lines of the City’s international-style crosswalk markings toward the interior of the intersection, creating a unique, artful geometric pattern.  The design accentuates the diagonal pedestrian movements allowed and the complexity and integration of different modes at this shared street plaza.  The design of the intersection is also flexible to absorb revisions to the Pier Bridge entrance that may follow as the Pier Bridge Reconstruction Project gets underway.  Designed as an integral part of the Project and modeled in the environmental analysis traffic studies, the scramble intersection is critical to providing stronger connections between the Pier Bridge, Palisades Park, Tongva Park and the Esplanade.  

In addition, PWP worked with City staff to propose a sidewalk expansion on Ocean Avenue so that the Colorado Esplanade and Tongva Park projects integrate intentionally and gracefully.  The sidewalk expansion is made possible by the one-way westbound configuration on Colorado Avenue in that the removal of the northbound right turn lane on Ocean Avenue provides the space necessary to widen the sidewalk in front of the park and adjacent to a highly utilized bus stop.  The additional sidewalk space at this active bus stop strengthens the connection between the bus stop and the Esplanade and the Expo station, making wayfinding for transit transfers between bus and light rail more legible and pedestrian friendly.

Funding:  The Ocean and Colorado Avenue intersection is part of the Metro grant funded project, providing a connection between the pedestrian improvements on Colorado Avenue and Pier, and is included in the core project. 

5.  Bus Stops: As noted above, the Metro Rapid bus stop located at Ocean Avenue and Colorado Avenue is one of the busiest bus stops in Santa Monica. The Colorado Esplanade has been designed to accommodate buses and bus riders and to facilitate connections to and from the station.  City staff is working with Big Blue Bus and Metro, in coordination with the Expo Construction Authority as necessary, to locate convenient and appropriate bus facilities near the station and the Esplanade. PWP and sub-consultant Fehr & Peers completed a bus reroute feasibility study to survey, map and provide route recommendations in coordination with Big Blue Bus and Metro regarding all bus routes affected by the one way configuration of Colorado Avenue.  Routes affected by the reconfiguration of Colorado Avenue west of 5th Street include: BBB Line 5, and Metro 20, 33, 534, 720 and 733.  Metro and Big Blue Bus are continuing to work on rerouting priorities to provide optimal service.

 

Funding:  The proposed  bus stop and sidewalk on Ocean Avenue south of Colorado is proposed to be added to the core project utilizing transit funds available through the Village Development Agreement to enhance the sidewalk adjacent to one of the most active bus stops in the City.    

 

public Outreach

The project team has engaged a wide range of City Boards and Commissions, including Planning, Landmarks, Recreation and Parks, Senior Community and Disabilities Commissions, and the Urban Forest Task Force.  Presentations were made to key stakeholders, including the Santa Monica Pier Corporation, Santa Monica Spoke, Downtown Santa Monica, Inc. and the Santa Monica Convention and Visitors Bureau. This project has also involved almost every City department, including public safety officials and the Big Blue Bus as well as close coordination with Metro and the Expo Construction Authority.  All of these stakeholders have expressed overall support, and the final design has benefited from their refinements.

 

Planning Commission Review

The Planning Commission reviewed the final design at the June 6, 2012, meeting and unanimously supported the roadway changes and design progression. Although the Urban Forest Master Plan gives Council authority over streetscape design, the Commission suggested that the project team consult with the Urban Forest Task Force to recommend a species for the street tree, which has occurred in the last few months. The Planning Commission also requested that the final design incorporate the necessary design refinements to ensure driveway access for the Wyndham Hotel (formerly the Holiday Inn) and Sears while preserving optimal pedestrian access, and to consider additional concepts for continuing the vibrancy and urban design along Fourth Street towards the center of the downtown. The Planning Commission agreed with the consistent comment that wayfinding is a critical component and anticipates that the project designers will coordinate with other wayfinding efforts in the area.  

 

Next Steps for Project Implementation

Phasing and Budget Strategies - The Esplanade was originally budgeted for construction using $10 million of redevelopment funding and $3.3 million of secured Metro grant funding for a total of $13.3 million.  Due to the elimination of redevelopment funding, Council approved project funding from the General Fund of $5.7 million and Metro grant funding of $3.3 million at the June 12, 2012 Council hearing, reducing the project budget to $9 million.  In August 2012, PWP provided City staff with a draft cost estimate of approximately $13.5 million for the project, including the projected additional costs of realigning Main and 2nd Streets, scope that was not anticipated in the original project.  City staff and the design team have value engineered the full project design to $12.7 million and have devised a phasing strategy that would allow for  a $10.7 million core project which constructs in the first phase the critical circulation changes that accommodate the Expo Light Rail.  City staff has identified additional funding sources in the amount of $710,000 leaving the current estimated unsecured funding gap for the core project at $990,000.  With the inclusion of  anticipated additional contributions from pipeline development projects, the gap for the core project would be reduced to $520,000.  Staff will return to Council to appropriate these funds after they are secured.  To date staff has made applications for several grants and is anticipating significant additional contributions from Development Agreement projects in the downtown.  Upon bid of the core project, if the funding gap has not been filled, one or more of the design components would need to be scaled back and a revised core project would be brought to Council, or additional funding would be requested.

Description: Description: Description: site plan phases other  

The Esplanade improves critical southern entrance intersections and provides access improvements for all of the downtown, with specific adjacent benefits for projects located on Colorado Avenue, 4th Street, 2nd Street and Ocean Avenue.  As the Colorado Esplanade project and Downtown Station Plaza meet LUCE criteria for community benefits for additional open space and improved circulation for alternative modes contributing to sustainable development and reduction of greenhouse gases, it is anticipated that future phases would be considered priority community benefits for which funding amounts would be included in community benefit negotiations for Downtown development agreement projects. Later phases to the project could be constructed as funding becomes available.

 

Next steps include completing the design and construction documents for the full project vision, and preparing a bid document for the core project to complete the critical infrastructure upgrades.  City staff and PWP will continue to refine material specifications, construction details and identify final finishes and colors during the construction document phase, working closely with the City and stakeholders on wayfinding development and public art integration.  Staff is requesting that the City Council approve the full design scope of the project as outlined herein and direct staff to prepare a bid package and solicit bids for the core project, while continuing to seek additional funding sources for future phases.  

 

 

 

Financial Impacts and Budget Actions

Funds in the amount of $9.0 million are included in the FY 2012-14 Adopted Capital Improvement Program (CIP) Budget at accounts C017040.589000 ($5,715,000) and C207040.589000 ($3,285,000).

The following funds will be included in the FY 2013-14 CIP Exception Based Budget, pending Council approval:

               

 

Colorado Avenue Esplanade - McGuire Thomas Developer Agreement

C047081.589000

       160,000

Colorado Avenue Esplanade -Village Project Developer Agreement (Transit)

C047081.589000

       200,000

Colorado Avenue Esplanade Water Main

C257040.589000

       175,000

Colorado Avenue Esplanade Sewers/Manholes

C317040.589000

       175,000

 

       710,000

 

 

The estimated funding gap for the core project is $990,000.    With the inclusion of anticipated additional contributions from pipeline development projects, the gap for the core project would be reduced to $520,000.  Staff will return to Council to appropriate these funds after they are secured. 

Any further changes to the project design or budget will be addressed when the project comes forward for construction contract award.  Upon completion of construction documents, the project will be bid with various options to add or subtract scope at the award of bid.  Also, at that time City staff will present any additional funding secured from grants, developer agreements and other sources, for Council consideration, and may recommend that additional General Funds be used to fund the core project, or other phases, prior to receipt of anticipated developer agreement contributions. 

 

 

Prepared by:            Sarah Lejeune, Principal Planner

                                    Joanna Hankamer, Senior Planner

 

 

 

Approved:

 

Forwarded to Council:

 

 

 

 

 

 

David Martin, Director

Planning & Community Development Department

 

Rod Gould

City Manager

 

 

Attachments:

 

A. Resolution amending the CCSP

B. Colorado Esplanade Information Package, Plans and Renderings