Friday, September 3, 2010

Follow Up To Agensys Planning Commision Meeting, Part 1

Santa Monica City Council Meeting
First of all I want to thank everyone who turned out to voice support for cycling at the meeting. The strong presence, which included the majority of the SM Spoke steering committee, and the numerous comments supporting bike connectivity in the area, made quite an impression. I didn't get something up sooner because the meeting went until midnight and my brain was pretty fried after the process.

I still haven't had time to give the complete analysis the night and the issue deserves, but I'll go into a few things for those who were wondering outcomes.

First the bad. It does not seem likely at this point that a full path will be included in the design unfortunately, which was our original goal. Agensys offered up a number of reasons why they believe it couldn't be successfully worked into project, especially under their deadline set by current lease holder Lionstone. I'll go into more specifics on all of that discussion in next post on the topic.

This has been a learning experience, and I think we would have had a much better shot if we got involved so strongly in a much earlier stage in the process. This project also sat in the gray zone of having had most of it's design work and input happening before LUCE was passed. Though I believe the calls in the then pending LUCE, for supporting active transportation and connectivity in major developments, should have made it clear bicycling issues should be considered at the outset. Especially since this is being done on city land. At one point a list of numerous public benefits was listed the project offers, and how few Lionstone currently offers. However in the long list of Agensys offerings, a bike pathway was the one check box not checked. We are often the after thought, and we want to flip that around.

Moving forward we are going to start looking through pending projects to make sure we get our foot in the door right away next time. The redevelopment of the pier bridge, recently declared structurally deficient, and will soon be in need of a rebuild, will likely be our next major project to get involved with.

Cyclists didn't come home with nothing gained for their efforts however. The final motion the commission made for city council consideration was that the discretionary funding already negotiated in the developer agreement go to immediate bike improvements improving connectivity to the Bergamot villiage district. Commissioner Ted Winterer also supported exploring additional fund allocation to bike connectivity and was the most adamant on the commission in calling for the Agenesy agreement to do more for cycling.

My understanding is that the $75,000 already in the agreement was originally intended for general station improvements in the imediate site of the future expo line stop at Bergamot. Commissioner Perry called that the funding should instead go to immediate bike projects in the area rather than waiting for the expo, and that pending DA agreements between now and expo can be used for station site improvements. He made passing reference to my public speech, in which I at one point referred to bike improvements in Santa Monica as moving at a snails pace.

Councilmen McKeown, who was present as liaison from the council, suggested the commission motion not be overly specific in earmarking funds, so that the council could explore flexibility in defining what bike improvements would be beneficial. So that for example, projects like Barbara's proposed short bike connection on Caltrans property could be considered. That idea, part of her vision for a complete Michigan bike route, would connect the Bergamot side of Michigan Ave and Crossroads School across to 20th st. where Michigan picks up again, without the difficult and heavy traffic Olympic detour. It's not in the immediate vicinity of Bergamot, but would significantly improve bike friendly connectivity to the area.

It was a long night with many twists and turns. There was a few revealing and especially flustered moments by Agensys representatives who clearly didn't understand the whole bike thing when pressed by the commission on questions like secure bike parking for employees. I believe the final motion also included a call for more bike parking consideration, for fully secure employee parking separate from racks near on-site cafe.

It also seems clear to me there is a disconnect between Traffic Demand Management goals set by city staff, of which there are requirements in Santa Monica developments, and the fact that bicycling can and should be a central part of reaching those goals. Safer bike connectivity being a clear way to boost ridership, and bike facilities on site should be a consideration beyond just sticking a few racks out front. Not everyone is going to take the trains and buses to work, especially if they already live in Santa Monica or immediately adjacent areas. I know at my work site, just North of this project, where we also have a parking cash-out program in effect, the majority of those cashing out are not on the bus, they are on bikes.

Ultimately the outcome rests with the council, which meets next on September 14th to discuss the project. The planning commission recommendations factor heavily in council deliberation however, which is why we wanted to really make our case on Wednesday.

I have a lot more I want to write about the proceedings, but alas it is another well past midnight staring me in the face, and sleep is beckoning.


Anonymous said...

Fascinating events ... thanks for keeping people posted.

Do you know if anyone from the biking community has tried to work directly with Agensys/Astellas people? I'm thinking particularly of their public relations people, who may be bikers' allies.

Anonymous said...

Great article that really gives some inspiration to those advocates for complete streets who are looking to join hands and hold policymakers to account for the plans they make.
Here in my city of Beverly Hills, we have no LUCE-type provisions; all cyclists have is a wimpy 5-page plan with maps from the 1970s. Really.

I'm organizing campaign here in Beverly Hills to address the missing piece of the bicycle 'backbone' plan on the Westside: that void that is Santa Monica Blvd. Have a look at the wiki if you have time:

Maybe you can think about giving a shout-out if the campaign fits into an upcoming article on the realities of riding the mean streets of BH.

Gary said...

Glad to hear there is some effort brewing within Beverly Hills to improve things for cycling. That gaping hole in the bike network is a serious hindrance to regional cycling since BH sits in the middle there and Santa Monica Blvd is such a critical route.

I'll try and mention something about your campaign soon to get the word out further. I'm kind of wrapped up a bit too much on other projects to get heavily involved in another campaign, but maybe some other cyclists will come out of the wood work that will want to pitch in.

Wish you best of luck in Beverly Hills, I'm sure it's an uphill battle there, they don't exactly have a track record of bicycle friendliness.