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In the Works

By Ann K. Williams
Staff Writer

July 12 -- Maybe there’s no such thing as a free lunch. But Saturday morning the City did give 40 citizens a free breakfast and a three-hour bus tour showing off dozens of public works projects funded by their tax dollars.

The excursion, led by Judy Rambeau, assistant to the City Manager, and Craig Perkins, director of Environmental and Public Works, was described as “a different kind of city tour, where some points of interest are completed, some are in process and some can only be imagined.”

Craig Perkins (Photos by Gene Williams)

Perkins wanted people to see the projects they’ve heard described at City Council meetings.

Here are some of the things they saw.

The Big Blue Bus started at Ken Edwards Center, across the street from Santa Monica Place, the indoor mall being “reimagined” by residents before the City okays its redevelopment. (see related story)

All aboard

The City also plans to “enliven” 2nd and 4th streets with public art and lighting and landscaping improvements. The changes will “bring some of the energy from the Promenade” to its surrounding streets and will be paid for by grant money from the Metropolitan Transit Authority.

They’re just some of the many streets and crossings throughout Santa Monica that will get landscaping, lighting, “traffic calming” and pedestrian safety improvements in the near future.

The City is negotiating with Caltrans to gain control of Lincoln Boulevard south of the freeway, now part of the California highway system.

Lincoln Boulevard

If negotiations go as the City hopes, the State will pay Santa Monica to take the street off its hands.

Once the City has authority over the street, it wants to make Lincoln Boulevard attractive and safe for businesses, shoppers and residents.

Nearby, the old Rand headquarters are slated for demolition to make way for Civic Center redevelopment, but it’s expected that preservationists will put up a fight.

Old Rand building

The Civic Center is going to be transformed in what officials say is the largest building project the City has ever seen.

A 900-space parking structure is under construction and plans have been made for 325 housing “units,” child care facilities, Civic Auditorium expansion, parks and additional space for City services. (see related story)

The bus passed through the airport for a look at the site of the future Airport Park, where construction is scheduled to begin in November after oil-contaminated soil is cleaned up.

Airport Park

Plans for the $10 million park include two soccer fields, an off-leash dog park and picnic areas.

Also coming up in November will be the grand opening of the new, expanded Virginia Avenue Park in the Pico Neighborhood.

Virginia Avenue Park

The Farmer’s Market will return to a permanent site at the park and the Police Activities League Fitness Center and a teen-designed youth center will front Pico Boulevard.

A state-of-the-art playground with a “water jet play area” and an indoor/outdoor patio will be accessible from Virginia Avenue.

“We should all visit the park and feel that it’s ours,” urged Rambeau.

The Ocean Park Community Center (OPCC), with help from City housing funds, is converting a building on Michigan Avenue to provide housing and services for homeless women and the homeless mentally ill.

OPCC project

Nearby, the “nerve center of the city” -- as Perkins referred the City Yard on Michigan -- is due to be renovated and improved over the next seven years.

Everyone got off the bus and stretched their legs at the newly opened Cove at Memorial Park.

The Cove

“I can’t believe that I’m living to see this -- a skateboard park,” one elderly woman commented.

The deep concrete pools inspired a lot of questions about liability insurance.

“We have had paramedics a handful of times,” said skate park manager Gina Van Hooser. The City is self-insured, and all skaters sign waivers before they use the park, she added.

Although the view of the 104,000 square foot Public Library was somewhat obscured by clouds of cement dust, Principal Librarian Susan Annett assured the tour group that the library will open this January.

Public Library

It’s built around a central courtyard, and will feature indoor and outdoor reading areas, a café and a “Friends of the Library store” in addition to a “vastly expanded children’s area” and a teen lounge.

The library will provide three levels of subterranean parking, more than enough for library patrons with room to spare for downtown shoppers.

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Auditorium will have its dedication ceremony next year, and the Santa Monica Historical Society will have its own space at the library.

Art fans will be pleased to know that the depression-era Stanton Macdonald-Wright murals depicting workers and local vistas will be returned to Santa Monica from the Smithsonian and restored and installed on the library’s second floor.

The Big Blue Bus yard will be breaking ground as it expands its lot and introduces “green” features both in its building designs and fueling alternatives.

Bus Yard

The modernist blue and white building overlooking the freeway near the end of Olympic Boulevard will be torn down and replaced.

A new bus washer has been built that reduces water usage by 50 percent.

The bus fleet is expanding, and more buses will be fueled by liquefied natural gas.

Some buses may be fueled with a 20 percent bio-diesel mixture that releases fewer greenhouse gases, is renewable and is produced in the U.S.A.

On the way back downtown, the bus also paused for a view of the fenced-in parking lot on the east side of Euclid Street near Broadway next to Hacienda del Mar, a home for people with disabilities.

The lot is scheduled to be turned into a park with a “backyard” feel next year.

“In Santa Monica we don’t pave paradise and put up a parking lot, we do just the opposite,” Rambeau quipped.

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