By Jorge Casuso
July 13 -- If you live, work or play Downtown, get ready
to pull out your earplugs and chart out alternate routes,
there’s plenty of construction coming down the planning
Starting with the proposed remodel of Santa Monica Place
next Spring and wrapping up with the replacement of the California
incline and the retrofit and widening of the pier bridge,
both of them scheduled to take place in 2009, there will be
plenty of hardhats in the Downtown area.
Merchants, residents and Bayside officials are worried about
the impacts all the work will have on traffic and parking
and the noise it will bring. “We’re in tune with
all three of these projects and will work with city officials
to manage the impacts to the downtown district,” said
Kathleen Rawson, executive director of Bayside District Corporation.
Perhaps the biggest impact on the Downtown will come from
the $9 million California Incline Replacement Project that
will shut down the bridge that leads down to Pacific Coast
Highway and one of the main arteries into the Downtown area.
The work, scheduled to start in spring 2009 is expected to
take ten months.
“Certainly it's a route used to enter and exit the city,”
said Mark Cuneo, the City’s principal civic engineer.
At a public meeting June 20, residents of the Wilmont neighborhood,
which abuts the northern edge of Downtown, worried that construction
will snarl traffic in the area. They also worried that work
crews will eat up street parking that already is in high demand.
In addition, residents are concerned about construction noise
and potential contamination. The demolition of the old bridge
could release asbestos-related materials and lead paint and
contaminate storm water runoff, according to the EIR issued
Built in 1930, the bridge, which is mainly concrete, has developed
cracks and breaks and is not up to current seismic standards,
according to the report. Inspection reports in 1989 and 1994
found that the bridge needed to be replaced.
When the incline closes, motorists wishing to access PCH will
need to use either the Ocean Avenue ramp next to the pier
or the 10 Freeway at Lincoln Boulevard, according to the EIR.
Motorists also can head up Channel or Entrada at the north
end of Santa Monica. City officials said they plan to work
with Caltrans to discourage motorists from cutting through
The Bayside also could feel the impacts of a proposed project
to seismically strengthen and widen the nearly 70-year-old
pier bridge, as well as provide a link between the pier parking
and the adjacent surface parking lot north of the pier.
Although it is currently scheduled to start in 2009, pier
officials said they do not expect the project to take place
at the same time as the California incline.
“The schedule for both projects has not been set,”
said Ben Franz-Knight, executive director of the Pier Restoration
Corporation. “Having them take place at the same time
would not be a good idea.”
With the EIR expected to go to the City Council this fall,
it is too early to tell what specific impacts the project
will have on the Downtown, Franz-Knight said. Much of that
will depend on which of the five options the council chooses.
(To view the full EIR, visit the Environmental
Reports page on the Planning and Community Development
Department section on the City’s website.)
“At this point it’s really hard to say what impacts
the construction will have,” he said. “It will
depend on which option is selected, and what the construction
So far, most of the comments to the draft EIR, which were
due last September, have focused on access from the beach
bicycle path and the potential historic status of the bridge,
planning officials said.
“We’re in the process of preparing the comments,”
said City Planner Paul Foley. The comments will be presented
to the City Council with the EIR.
Meanwhile, Macerich’s plans to remodel Santa Monica
Place are sailing along. On June 20, the Planning Commission
enthusiastically embraced the proposed design that tears the
roof and doors off the indoor mall and connects it to the
Third Street Promenade. The proposed remodel also features
an open-air center court and a third-floor food court overlooking
The commission, which will not officially weigh in on the
project, gave the modest remodel unusually exuberant praise.
“I like the overall configuration,” said Planning
Commissioner Darrell Clarke. “I like how it opens up.
I like the curves. I think it’s gorgeous . . . I think
you’ve done something special.”
Under the new proposal, Macy’s department store, as
well as the two public parking structures totaling nearly
2,000 spaces, will stay open during construction, which is
slated to start next spring and completed by fall 2009, mall
“We are anxious for Santa Monica Place to successfully
complete their renovations,” Rawson said. “Bayside
will also work closely with Macerich and the city to help
mitigate the impacts of the construction.”
Editor's note: This article also ran in the Bayside Beat,
the monthly newsletter of the Bayside District Corporation.