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Bike Advocate Looks to Santa Monica’s Eco Bill of Rights to Reduce Traffic

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark

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Harding, Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

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By Jason Islas
Staff Writer

January 6, 2014 -- Cutting auto traffic along Michigan Avenue is not only a good idea, it’s guaranteed in Santa Monica’s Sustainability Bill of Rights.

That’s according to local bike advocate Barbara Filet, who advocates reducing the number of cars along Michigan Avenue as part of the City’s Greenway Project planned along the Pico Neighborhood street.

Plans to make the stretch of Michigan Avenue from Santa Monica High School to the Bergamot Area more bike and pedestrian friendly have gotten wide support, but after opposition by the Pico Neighborhood Association, City planners opted to ditch the plans to to reduce cut-through traffic to the I-10 freeway by blocking cars from turning on to Michigan from 11th Street.

But that’s against the spirit and the letter of Santa Monica’s Sustainability Bill of Rights, adopted by the Council in March, said Filet, a resident of Michigan Avenue.

“Perhaps the Sustainability Bill of Rights can show that a Greenway is legally mandated,” Filet wrote in an email to City officials Thursday.

“A freeway so close is called an incurable defect in real estate. We can't put more distance between us and the freeway but we can lessen its impact by preventing Michigan from being a freeway onramp. We can close Michigan at Lincoln,” she said.

The Sustainability Bill of Rights, which passed unanimously on March 12, asserts that all residents of Santa Monica possess “fundamental and inalienable rights” to, among other things, clean indoor and outdoor air and “a sustainable climate that supports thriving human life and a flourishing biodiverse environment.”

While the Bill makes strong declarations, City officials said that it doesn’t include any “any specific mandates.”

Even so, Filet said she is interested in understanding how to use the Bill of Rights as a legal tool, especially in her fight to reduce cut-through traffic as part of the Michigan Avenue Greenway.

“This is an environmental justice project, after all,” Filet wrote in her email. “Michigan Avenue lies 200 feet from the freeway. We residents are already plagued by the noise and pollution from 150,000-200,000 cars on the freeway and 50,000 on Lincoln.

“That is an injury to our health and our legal rights to breathe clean air,” she wrote, echoing the Sustainability Bill of Rights.

She likened the impact of the cars along the freeway to cigarette smokers and those drivers using Michigan Avenue to get to the freeway as “thousands more smokers entering our homes, blowing smoke in our faces, throwing their butts on the ground and slamming the door on the way out.”

City officials have estimated that about 4,200 cars cut through the area daily during rush hour.

Still, not everyone likes the idea of permanently barring car access to and from Lincoln Boulevard. The Pico Neighborhood Association said that, according to a survey it conducted, residents “roundly rejected” plans to install permanent traffic barriers at certain points along the route. ("Survey Results Show Dueling Visions for Santa Monica's Michigan Avenue Greenway," December 23, 2013)

According to the Association’s survey, 95 percent of those asked opposed the measure.

Filet, who conducted the same survey, said her findings were the opposite, with about 85 percent of those asked supporting fixed traffic barriers.

The Michigan Avenue Greenway project will once again go before residents for feedback on January 7. On January 14, the Council will review the Sustainability Bill of Rights when it discusses its Sustainable City Plan.

Filet said she plans on being there to talk.

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