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Being Prepared for Downtown Construction



By Jason Islas
Lookout Staff

January 17, 2012 -- Downtown Santa Monica is poised to undergo a dramatic facelift, and City officials are making sure residents, visitors and business owners stay informed about the construction to keep things flowing smoothly.

The projects include the construction of the Expo Light Rail line and station, the makeover of Colorado Avenue to accommodate the Esplanade, a town square and new garden walk at the Civic Center and the demolition and rebuilding of Parking Structure 6 on 2nd Street.

But City officials say the ongoing construction work is no reason to interrupt business as usual in the bustling commercial district.

“Santa Monica is fortunate to have a range of public improvement projects... that will really enhance Santa Monica as a community,” said Kate Vernez, the City's Deputy City Manager for Special Projects. “We want to get the projects done and minimize the disruption.”

To those ends, the City launched the Be Excited! Be Prepared! Campaign in September that was designed with plenty of input from Downtown stakeholders to help focus efforts to insure that the area remains successful and accessible, Vernez said.

The campaign combines “high-tech and high-touch” tools. The “high-touch” portion involves getting out into the community, since the campaign is as much a dialogue as it is an information system, according to Vernez.

“We provide numerous and diverse opportunities to the public to stay informed and provide us feedback,” Vernez said.

Community Relations Manager Sarah Johnson, whose position was created specifically for the task at hand, is the human face of the Be Excited! Be Prepared! Campaign. “I'm the first point of contact,” Johnson said.

“The City team is committed to soliciting feedback on the information and outreach campaign, and making ongoing improvements accordingly,” she said.

Johnson's job is to facilitate discussion between stakeholders and project managers and to help the public better understand how current construction projects affect them. In addition to the project managers, “a very deep management structure” has been put in place that includes nine City department heads and non-city partners such as the Expo Construction Authority, Vernez said.

“We go out as a team and brief people on what to expect with the construction,” she said.

Aside from person-to-person outreach, the City has launched a new web site -- -- that features a comprehensive list of current, upcoming and completed projects. Clicking on any of the project names directs users to a page that provides background about the project, a timeline and a “know before you go” section that features any street closures or traffic redirection that visitors should know about.

The site also features an interactive map that allows visitors to click on a part of the city and get a short update, including when a project is slated to start – or be completed – and links to more detailed information.

Eventually, the site will also feature live video feeds of the certain construction sites, Vernez said. “People love to see dirt move,” she said. “It's one of those fun things.”

The public can also use the Government Outreach (GO) System to ask questions or share concerns 24-hours a day, seven days a week.

Johnson and Vernez are optimistic that the campaign will help minimize the disruption caused by the construction.

“I hope that by proactively providing information to the community about the array of projects, they will know where to go when they have questions about construction,” Johnson said.

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