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|Planning Commission Gives Santa Monica Esplanade Good Reviews|
By Jason Islas
June 11, 2012 -- The Santa Monica Planning Commission Wednesday night praised the new Colorado Esplanade project, which has had its funding slashed by half, while expressing some concerns over whether the project will connect pedestrians to the Promenade and nearby businesses.
What began as a $10 million project funded with Redevelopment Agency (RDA) money has been cut back to a $5.7 million project. Despite cutbacks -- the result of California's Supreme Court's decision to eliminate Redevelopment Agencies (RDAs) early this year -- the commission was generally happy with redesigned Esplanade.
“Despite this cut-back, they've found the money to do it,” Planning Commissioner Richard McKinnon said. “We will get an Esplanade.”
Principal Planner Sarah Lejeune said that City staff is going to great lengths to make sure that the Esplanade plans does not lose any of the original design features and remains at the same high standard, despite cutbacks.
“This is evolving,” said Lejeune. “We have to have it evolve at the highest level of quality.”
At this point, McKinnon said, the discussion isn't about whether there will be an Esplanade. It's about fine-tuning the design.
The project “is a vast improvement over what Colorado is now,” McKinnon said.
The Esplanade, which would originate at the Expo line station at Fifth Street and continue to the Pier entrance, would make the stretch of Colorado Avenue more pedestrian and bicyclist-friendly by widening sidewalks and adding a protected cycle track.
Colorado Avenue also would be reduced to a one-way street after Fifth Street, allowing cars to only travel west.
The Esplanade “is one of those projects that everyone is saying, 'This is a great idea',” McKinnon said.
“It cleans up the link between Main Street and Second Street,” he said, adding that the cycle track will be a vast improvement.
There will also be a scramble crossing -- a crosswalk that allows pedestrians to cross in all four directions at once -- at Colorado Avenue and Ocean Avenue.
But there are still some concerns.
In an e-mail to the Planning Commission dated June 3, Downtown Santa Monica, Inc. CEO Kathleen Rawson wrote, “The main design emphasis of the Esplanade is to connect the Fourth Street Expo line to the Santa Monica Pier.”
“Fourth Street should be a focal point of the project to encourage pedestrians to walk north as well as west when exiting the EXPO station,” she added.
Rawson, as well as some of the commissioners, were concerned that the current design wouldn't do enough to draw pedestrians toward the Promenade and the Santa Monica Place.
“All treatments on Fourth Street should extend minimally to Broadway, and ideally to Wilshire. Not extending the treatments on Fourth Street will be a lost opportunity to knit the core of Downtown with the EXPO line,” she said.
The Esplanade design will go before the City Council in July, when the Council will decide whether to give approval to the final design.
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