Re: Mango before City Council
Michigan Avenue Neighborhood Greenway
Dear Mayor Pam O’Connor, Santa Monica City Council members, City Manager Rod Gould, Planning Commissioners, City Staff & Consultant Team,
It is with nearly unbridled enthusiasm that we look forward to City Councils review, input and final approval on the Michigan Avenue Neighborhood Greenway project also known as MANGo. Santa Monica Spoke has been joined by many residents in the Pico Neighborhood and broader Santa Monica Community who have been advocating for neighborhood improvements and mitigation of the traffic burdens on Michigan Avenue for decades.
With our enthusiastic support this corridor was included in the Bicycle Action Plan passed in November 2011. In June 2012 Santa Monica Spoke was proud to win a Better Bicycling Community Grant from the Alliance of Biking and Walking to assist in the implementation and help lead community outreach to envision MANGo. We have been pleased to be a part of the engaging and wide reaching neighborhood and community outreach that we believe is a first in our city. City Staff and the consulting team Meléndrez, & IBI Group and Community Arts Resources (CARS) have been excellent, collaborative partners completing the technical analysis and feasibility studies while reaching out to the community and gathering input at engaging and well-attended public and stakeholder meetings that have brought this project to life.
For example: the POP-UP MANGo Community Outreach Event was a first of it’s kind for Santa Monica and also unique in the Los Angeles region. It brought together the neighborhood and the entire community to interact, celebrate, get informed and engaged neighbors and participants in dialogue with a stimulating and unique experience. More than 400 people signed in at the event (73% from the Pico Neighborhood) but we believe many more may have participated without signing in. The event was an unprecedented success! And FUN!
As the project comes to life we can clearly see the community’s input, and how it aligns with the established goals from the LUCE, the Sustainable City Plan and the Open Space Element. With MANGo we move to make our city healthier and more sustainable by prioritizing non-motorized transportation such as biking and walking as well as incorporating environmental justice. Key elements of these policies supported by Santa Monica Spoke and incorporated into MANGo are:
- The LUCE goals “discourage regional traffic on neighborhood streets” and to “set design speeds at below 25 mph so that bicycles can share the travel lane with cars and pedestrians can safely walk across the street at any location.”
- “A significant increase in bicycling is necessary for the city of Santa Monica to be a leading bicycle-friendly city and reach its goals of reducing auto trips, meeting GHG emission reduction commitments and promoting active living.”
- LUCE Greenway routes are also designated as Bikeways with the directive to “design streets as bicycle boulevards, with physical measures to reduce motor vehicle traffic and volumes so that cyclists can comfortably share lanes with autos where right-of-way is not available for bicycle lanes”.
- Sustainable City Plan (SCP) Guiding Principle #3 says no inequitable burdens should be placed on any one geographic or socioeconomic sector of the population and that the benefits of a sustainable community should be accessible to all members of the community. The SCP also encourages active transportation to work toward reducing GHG emissions, working to support upward trends in the uses of sustainable modes of transportation and also proposing traffic calming measures to work at reducing the number of bike and pedestrian collisions involving motor vehicles. MANGo also meets transportation goals by creating a multi-modal transportation system that minimizes and, where possible, eliminates pollution and motor vehicle congestion while ensuring safe mobility and access for all without compromising our ability to protect public health and safety. As did the Ocean Park Green Lane project, MANGo will increase the amount of permeable land use area to help reduce urban runoff.
- The Open Space Element advocates reclaiming excessively wide streets with proposed Mini-Parks. Special paving on cul-de-sac streets encourages open space and recreational use of dead end streets and alleys, like proposed in the MANGo project. The Neighborhood Greenway also supports the Open Space Element’s Policy to reconnect the City and the beach.
The Pico neighborhood has endured a high level of environmental burdens well beyond that of most other neighborhoods in Santa Monica. Michigan Avenue and the Pico Neighborhood are surrounded by heavily trafficked streets. The proximity of these roads and in particular the 10 Freeway (150,000- 200,000 cars per day) significantly impact the quality of life in the Pico Neighborhood with speeding cars, noise and air pollution. We can’t move or reduce traffic on the freeway but we can reduce traffic on Michigan Avenue. Michigan carries more surface traffic than any other residential street next to the freeway with some blocks measured at more than 4200 cars per day. The traffic signal installed in 1998 to increase safety for children crossing Lincoln Blvd on their way to Samohi has had a side effect of increasing traffic on Michigan Avenue with hundreds of parents driving their children to and from school and using the street as a pick up and drop off zone. Pico residents have the same right to a livable, quiet, safe home zone as other residents, free from the high levels of speeding traffic and pollution. The Sustainability Rights Ordinance gives residents a legal right to breathe clean air and encourages decision makers to subordinate the private interests of individuals to the long-term interests of our environmental and public health. We believe it is essential that we set goals to lower traffic volumes significantly to less than 1500-per-day in order to provide environmental justice for the residents along Michigan Avenue and the Pico Neighborhood. Without traffic reduction, residents, families with children and elders can not be safe from automotive noise, air pollution and speeding traffic on Michigan Avenue.
Children’s ability to walk and bike to school is a critical component of public health. Some of our schools have up to 30% of their population listed as overweight or obese. Will Rogers lists 36.1% of its 5th graders rated at unhealthy body mass index (BMI) compared to the national average of 18%! The difference between a healthy and unhealthy BMI for kids amounts to a mere 100 calorie/day difference. MANGo will provide kids with a safe place to engage in active transportation by walking, biking or skating to school.
Setting the goal to measure the effectiveness of traffic calming devices that will be implemented in the MANGo project is important and can be guided by respected organizations and precedents. The National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) recommends less than 1500 cars per day on a greenway. Long Beach’s Vista Boulevard, the closest greenway in LA County, carries between 800-1000 cars per day. Many other cities set goals on greenways below 500 cars per day. The NACTO target of 1500 cars per day is reasonable, achievable and a measurable goal for MANGo.
The traffic mitigation and many street improvements of MANGo will create a healthier people friendly street for the Pico Neighborhood. A street that will not only serve its residents but also connect the community on a calmer, safer Michigan Avenue to Samohi, Edison Language Academy, many other schools in the Pico Neighborhood, Expo stations, neighborhood parks, farmers markets, business and employment centers. Traffic diversion is only one of several tools that can be implemented on MANGo to reduce traffic and is proposed as a later phase option. We must have a metric to measure the effectiveness of traffic calming devices that will be implemented in the MANGo project. If initial measures implemented such as turn restrictions do not achieve the desired traffic reduction to goals of less than1500 car per day, diversion should remain an option to re-route cars just a few blocks off their usual routes if needed.
Santa Monica Spoke has actively participated in the process of gathering neighborhood and community input for this project and passionately supports the varied design implementations that were demonstrated through this engaged community process. Present and future generations of parents and children need a safer, more comfortable street that allows adults and kids to actively transport themselves by walking, skating, running or biking to school and elsewhere. Reduced traffic volumes and traffic calming mitigations can correct the unhealthy and inequitably high traffic volumes, speeding, noise and pollution currently imposed on this residential street.
It is with great anticipation we look forward to a beautiful, safer Michigan Avenue Neighborhood Greenway to serve current and future generations of our community on a healthier, more equitable, people friendly MANGo!
Santa Monica Spoke
Local Chapter LACBC