Thursday, December 2, 2010

Quick Update On Planning Commission Meeting

Santa Monica City Council Meeting
At last nights planning commission meeting, city staff presented an update on the status and process for the pending Santa Monica bike action plan. I wish I had time to go in greater detail on specific comments, but I have to say the Santa Monica planning commission is definitely an ally of bicyclists and I was very encouraged by their support and the questions and concerns they raised.

The bulk of the bike plan discussion was a presentation by staff on the process for the bike plan, and some progress that has already been happening in the city, such as the success of the bike valet program. Followed by the commission discussing it's role in this process.

Richard McKinnon, Michael Cahn, Eric Weinstein my wife Meghan, and my self were members of the public, associated with the Santa Monica Spoke advocacy group, who spoke during public comment. When I was done with my comments during the bike plan item, I was asked to stay at the mic and was then asked a number of questions by several commissioners on bike route treatments and what I might consider ideal designs and a location for such an ideal bike route.

The big takeaways to me were, the planning commission seemed fully behind us, a number of them bike around town them self, and commission chair Jim Ries called for having a presentation in Santa Monica by visionary bike planner Charlie Gandy, currently with the title of mobility director in Long Beach. To see the lessons learned in the progress happening there, and Ries alluded to precedents from similar presentations made by guest speakers during past major planning processes. Ted Winterer expressed frustration about Long Beach having more ambitious plans and more real progress being made than Santa Monica, and that even Fresno is ambitiously moving forward with it's new bike plan. There was a also motion to explore creating a sub-committee of the planning commission, as well as some talk of looking at creating an officially sanctioned public task force on cycling issues, as West Hollywood has done.

I think it's also worth noting the previous item on the renovation of parking structure 6, which would include some bike parking and which cyclists also commented on, became a topic of discussion amongst the commissioners on how we successfully integrate bike parking into our parking plans. Many commissioners expressed concern that the sheer scale and number of cars spaces in the plan was out of character with Santa Monica and it's new priorities under LUCE.

I found the comments of commisiner Pugh particularly entertaining as he referred to the cities parking placement priorities as "ass backward", at one point in his comments. He expressed his desire to see priority for quantity of car parking closer to the freeway, such as our currently under utilized Civic Center garage, and use higher parking rates at lots in the downtown core to fund a shuttle service for the parking further away to encourage better parking distribution and make it easier for those willing to park further away to get into the downtown core without a car. This would reduce automotive circulation in the downtown, where the pedestrian experience should be the priority, and keep congestion closer to the freeway instead of our street grid.

I'll try to keep up with news of future meetings, and encourage people to attend if they can, constant presence at these public input opportunities is an important component of changing the gears of city government and while there is not much paint on the street to show for it yet, I feel we are having an impact that is already changing the political culture in the city. Now almost every development project and plan in the city has some talk about how it effects cyclists or how improvements for cyclists can be incorporated, and that was not really the case a year ago, or really even 6 months ago.

There are some specific aspects of the bike plan process that has been presented that I also want to comment on and will write a separate post on that in the next few days. Also be sure to come out for the public open house for the bike plan on Dec 13th, it will be a great opportunity to give direct feed-back on what you want to see out of our new bike plan and show support for cycling in Santa Monica.

1 comment:

Captain Credit Crunch said...

Thank you, Gary, for these updates. Although not many comment, I am sure you have a substantial readership. In any case I appreciate your efforts.