Friday, September 3, 2010
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.
Thursday, March 18, 2010
I was a little disheartened by the at times hostile atmosphere at the public meeting this past Monday, though mainly because of the harsh nay saying of a particular individual in attendance. However at today's meeting between members of the Santa Monica Spoke LACBC chapter, my self included, and Assistant City Manager Jennifer Phillips, Deputy Police Chief Phillip Sanchez and Transportation Planning Manager Lucy Dyke, there was some cause for renewed optimism.
The meeting got off to a rocky start at times, I think in part because so many of us have such a large backlog of grievances and a sense of urgency to the situation on our streets. Waiting for someday LUCE will be passed and everything will better has not been very reassuring. Once dialog really got moving along though it was clear that the immediate problem has been a lack of communication between cyclists and the city. Some of the particular specific problems I brought up at one point, like design problems at a few points on 11th St., are things Lucy Dyke was already aware of or is in their queue of issues for her department. To some extent they don't know certain things we know about being on the street but to some extent they do but we don't know what they know.
We need information flowing both directions, and if the City knows a problem, but for some reason is held up, or something else has priority, we want to know about it. Most importantly we want to know what is being done about these problems, as of course actions are always what speak loudest. However words precede action, so open discussion is critical. I also found it refreshing that apparently a decent number of the staff for transportation planning in Santa Monica do walk, bike or take the bus. Unlike LA County Metro, where less than 2% of the staff actually ride Metro to work.
No specific on the street issues were solved by this brief meeting, and many things I came into the meeting wanting to talk about I didn't get to, but the critical take away has been that Jennifer Phillips has offered to continue the dialog with more round table discussion. We are to have another meeting in about a month and will continue to have a monthly round table discussion eventually moving toward a quarterly meeting once the most urgent issues have been discussed. The goal is to get everything out in the air so we can establish what cyclists most want and need to happen, and then prioritize how we address those issues. The SM Spoke group will meet again before then to hash out specifics of what we want to discuss.
Phillips has offered to have staff from multiple departments present and that if it comes out of these proposed meetings that our priorities are overwhelmingly different with the bike project priorities of the transportation demand management department, than maybe some priorities will be changed. This is wonderful news, and could be crucial to really building the relationship between the cycling community and the City of Santa Monica in a positive direction. The format of completely public forums like the one to discuss 20th and Cloverfield can become a bit of a shouting match between competing interests at times, though all voices should be heard, and 2 minutes of speaking time at the City Council Meetings can only address the tip of the ice berg of our many issues and ideas. Having some more direct time speaking with staff I think can only be constructive.
I would like to thank Assistant City Manager Phillips, Deputy Police Chief Sanchez, and Lucy Dyke from Transportation Planning for their time, and most especially for the offering to keep the discussion going in the months ahead. There is much to talk about.
Speaking of which, I would like to hear back from my readers what are your biggest concerns as a cyclist in Santa Monica. I'll be having some real speaking time with city staff instead of just projecting my thoughts into cyberspace, and would like to best represent our collective interests. Let's get the dialogue flowing.
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
As I've already made pretty clear in my posts since the announcement that Santa Monica had earned a bronze award from the League of American Bicyclists, I do not believe the city deserves the distinction. However, since it is getting this shiny prize, I would like to be in attendance. If for no other reason, the off chance of getting to talk to city officials about cycling outside the confines of a 2 minute monologue. Or at the very least a chance to rant with other like minded bicycle activist types while politicians pontificate about how awesome they are.
The ride to this little ceremony at City Hall is being put on by the LACBC as part of their Car Free Fridays, and Santa Monica Spoke, a group that has been brewing over the past couple weeks with the intent of becoming a local chapter of the LACBC. Although my general busyness with my real job and being sick lately has gotten in the way of being more directly involved so far, I'm in this new group and will be following it's development. Some cross posting between here and the Santa Monica Spoke blog is likely in the near future.
The ride meets tomorrow, Friday morning, at 8:00am on Pearl St. by the Santa Monica Community College library, across from Sustainable Works, and leaves at 8:10am. Apparently it's leaving at 8:10 sharp, so don't presume this is rolling on bike time. Hope to see you there, and maybe with some nudging and pressure from us in the months and years ahead, Santa Monica may one day actually be worthy of recognition for it's commitment to cycling.