Santa Monica’s Ocean Park Blvd Project: Green Streets meet Complete Streets

August 31, 2010 § 7 Comments

Ocean Park Boulevard - after - as planned

At Creek Freak, one of my past criticisms of green street projects is that they don’t adress issues of alternate transportation. Wonderful “Green Streets” projects address rainwater issues. Wonderful “Complete Streets” projects address walking, transit, bicycling. But n’er the twain shall meet?

Finally a local project has come across my desk that combines green streets and complete streets. At this point it’s about a half year before construction starts, but Creek Freak is happy to highlight the city of Santa Monica’s Ocean Park Boulevard project.

Ocean Park Boulevard - before - as it appears today

L.A. Creek Freak has covered green street projects in the past, including Bicknell in Santa Monica, and Riverdale  and Elmer in Los Angeles. These projects understand that when we’ve buried our creeks and built streets on top of them, it’s going to cause some problems: loss of habitat, water pollution, flooding, decreased water supply, gray urban soul-less-ness… Ultimately, the solution should be radical daylighting (also see Ellen Durham-Jones thousand-foot stream buffer proposal – near the end of this earlier post) but we’re still going to have some streets at the end of the day, so we need to look at how they interact with our rainwater.

There are also some very worthwhile efforts, from local to national, to do Complete Streets – streets that accomodate cars, bikes, pedestrians, transit, wheelchairs, and more. Locally, this has been pushed by Green L.A. Transportation Work Group‘s Living Streets Campaign (author note: I am involved in both of these groups), which does include water/ecosystems concepts in its Living Streets tenets. Living Streets has some promising future projects, including a Boyle Heights streets community planning project just getting underway.

Portland rain-garden bulbout. Photo Portland BES via SF Streetsblog

Portland, Oregon, has been implementing projects that combine walkability, bikeability with watershed management. They create traffic-calming “bulb-outs” that include landscaped rainwater garden areas. Read more about the Portland projects (and see plenty of excellent photos) at this overview article at San Francisco Streetsblog

Soon, these projects will arrive on Southern California shores. The city of Santa Monica is moving forward with its Ocean Park Boulevard Green Streets Project. The city even has a project website, with quite a bit of helpful information. The project is located on Ocean Park Boulevard, from Lincoln Boulevard to Neilson Way:

After an extensive community planning phase, the City of Santa Monica approved the finals plans and budget in May. It’s expected to go to construction early 2011.

The project includes innovative green bike lanes, similar to what’s been done in Long Beach, San FranciscoPortland, New York City, and many other places. It adds safe crosswalks with pedestrian refuge islands, and improves transit stops on Ocean Park Boulevard and on perpendicular streets. Also, lighting, bike parking… and that’s just the stuff that doesn’t directly affect the water and ecosystem issues that creek freaks speak.

Plan for Ocean Park Blvd landscaped medians and bulbouts that filter rainwater, image from Pedestrian Symposium presentation, click for full pdf about project

The project includes landscaped sidewalk extensions and center median islands that filter rainwater through bioswale infiltration areas (similar to the Portland image above.) Also included are large-scale infiltration galleries at adjacent Los Amigos Park.

Creek Freak looks forward to project construction getting underway… and to bicycling there when it’s complete! Keep your RSS tuned to L.A. Creek Freak and we’ll bring you updates on progress.

*Updated 7pm 8/31/2010:

I learned about this excelent project from a talk by Urban Studio’s John Kaliski. Upon reading my article above, he emailed me some excellent additional information about the project: (all his words, but I’ve added links)

The project was initiated by the Ocean Park Association, I believe 17 years ago! Their main goals were to improve walkability, calm traffic, make it more of a neighborhood street, and make it green! They also were very interested in treating the street as a watershed and making it a green street. Bob Taylor, a Santa Monica architect, and countless others led this community based effort for many years and produced an imageable plan that served as the basis for the City moving forward with later efforts.

The City hired us, Urban Studio, to lead a multi-disciplinary team and realize a plan that would not only gain consensus in the community, but meet the City’s evolving green streets program and storm water retention programs. We worked on the project with Mollenhauer Group, civil engineers, and Fehr and Peers, traffic engineers. Many key [City of Santa Monica] staff were involved, most notably Peter James who was and still serves as a project manager. He really pushed this thing harder than anybody. More recently Kimley-Horn and Associates was retained by the city to complete design development and construction documents. My firm, Urban Studio, is working with them and Lawrence Moss and Associates, landscape architects, to complete this next and final phase of design work. We are hoping for ground breaking early next year.

This has been a really exciting project to design and work on and we are looking forward to walking, biking, and even driving along it – in both sunshine and rain.

Thanks for your work on the project and for the additional information, John!

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§ 7 Responses to Santa Monica’s Ocean Park Blvd Project: Green Streets meet Complete Streets

  • RKB says:

    Excellent. Look forward to seeing the complete street become a green street – and I’d also be interested in knowing what kinds of trees do well in that environment.

  • Naturalist.charlie says:

    no reason we can’t fit bikes, pedestrians, and rainwater infiltration on our streets! There currently is lots of wasted space we can use for this.

  • […] path-blocking project. Speaking of Santa Monica, LA Creek Freak looks at the planned conversion of lower Ocean Park Blvd into a green Complete Street. LADOT Bike Blog examines sidewalk riding laws in the San Gabriel […]

  • Eric Weinstein says:

    Also make note of the connectivity for cyclists.

    Both ends of this project connect to existing bike lanes. The West end crossed the Main St lane, and continues only one more block to the beach path. The East end continues up Ocean Park.

    Someday in the future, the City of Santa Monica will have dominion over Lincoln and create a bus / bike lane. When this was in the planning stages, there was no way to go anywhere from the East end of this due to automotive traffic congestion.

    The cycling flaw is that it’s a pretty steep hill Westbound. Some room to zig zag up would have been nice!

  • […] Santa Monica Planning a Real Green Street for Ocean Park Boulevard (Creek Freak) […]

  • PlebisPower says:

    Great post, Joe. Complete Streets is really starting to come onto the radar, especially with informative & illustrative posts like this one, showing what it means in practice. I also appreciate the heads up about community-originated planning practices, which I addresss on my site

    Speaking of complete streets, you know that the missing piece of the bicycle ‘backbone’ plan on the Westside is Beverly Hills. That means that a key artery, SM Blvd., serves only motorists. Our city’s bike plan, a 5-page sketch, was outdated even before the ink dried – not least because it uses maps from the 1970s. If offers not even a nod to complete streets or any shared road policies.

    I’m organizing a campaign to encourage city policymakers to think more creatively – starting with planned improvements to Santa Monica Blvd., the missing piece in the backbone. The wiki:

    The need is clear. The city already owns an additional 15 feet of right-of-way, so the opportunity is available. Now that the city is undertaking improvements, the time is right too. I hope some LA Creek Freak readers might be interested.

  • We are working on a green alley design in Santa Monica much like the project we completed in Chicago’s Green Alley Program.

    Check it out:

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