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Downtown Santa Monica Gets Major Overhaul

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and MarkHarding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP  law firm
Harding, Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

Pacific Park, Santa Monica Pier

Santa Monica Convention and Visitors BureauWhen one lives in a city as breathtakingly beautiful and unique as Santa Monica, inevitably that city will be shared with visitors.

By Jorge Casuso and Jason Islas

First of two parts.

March 13, 2014 -- Downtown Santa Monica is standing at the threshold of its future with number of major development and capital improvement projects underway or slated to start over the next few years.

The projects include the Expo Light Rail line that will connect the beachside City to Downtown LA, a newly rebuilt California incline that will make it easier to access Pacific Coast Highway and a new Pier bridge that will offer better access to the landmark wooden structure.


The 83-year-old bridge known as the California Incline that connects Santa Monica to Pacific Coast Highway will be out of commission for more than a year starting in late summer, City officials said. It must be replaced to meet State earthquake safety standards.

California incline

If all goes according to plan, the $12.5 million replacement of the deteriorating 750-foot bridge at California Avenue will start in late August or early September, said Martin Pastucha the City’s Director of Public Works.

The project is funded almost entirely with federal money and is currently being reviewed by the California Department of Transportation (CalTrans), Pastucha said. “We’re hoping to get authorization by April 2014,” he said, adding that construction could take 12 to 14 months.


The much-anticipated Expo Light Rail Line continues its progress toward the beach as construction crews put bridges in place, dig trenches to lay tracks and build stations along the 15-mile route from Downtown LA.

Visitors to Downtown Santa Monica can expect to meet with intermittent street closures along Colorado west of 18th Street until construction wraps up on the Expo Line late next year.

Expo work

Construction crews will “be closing individual intersections for a period of time, as they clear the right-of-way down the middle of Colorado and lay tracks,” said Planning Director Martin.

In late January, officials closed the intersection at 5th and Colorado — and the 5th Street exit on the I-10 -- while construction crews worked around the clock to lay tracks. For the latest updates on construction and street closures visit the City’s “Be Excited! Be Prepared” page at

Phase one of Expo has been running between Culver City and Downtown L.A. since April 2011, and has far exceeded expectations by carrying an average of 27,000 passengers every weekday. The train should prove a boon to Downtown Santa Monica, with as many as 400 passengers expected to get on and off every five minutes during peak hours.


In September, City officials are scheduled to break ground on the new $10 million pedestrian- and bike-friendly Colorado Esplanade to better accommodate the influx of visitors arriving on the Expo Line.

The Esplanade -- which will stretch from the 4th Street Expo station to the Santa Monica Pier -- calls for one westbound traffic lane on Colorado Avenue, wider sidewalks, a dedicated bicycle track and signs directing visitors to the Promenade and other Downtown destinations.


Since the Esplanade is one of a number of construction projects in the area, “there is an interdepartmental group working with us to minimize disruption” to surrounding businesses and visitors, said Francie Stefan, the City’s Community and Strategic Planner.

Planners recently applied for a $2 million grant to extend the Esplanade along Fourth Street between Colorado and Broadway, improve landscaping between Colorado and the Fourth Street bridge across the 10 Freeway and add fencing with integrated lighting and crosswalks along the bridge, Stefan said.


When the Esplanade is completed, the City expects to begin construction on an $18.3 million project to replace the 75-year-old concrete bridge that connects the Santa Monica Pier to Ocean and Colorado avenues.

The current bridge -- which is too steep for bikes and wheelchairs to use safely and too narrow to adequately accommodate traffic -- is the primary route for pedestrians coming to the pier from Downtown Santa Monica and the only access for vehicles to the pier deck parking lot, City officials said.

Pier Bridge

Last Spring, the City embarked on a series of improvements before construction of a new bridge begins in 2016. They included closing or limiting access to vehicles on the bridge, removing the sidewalks, shifting vehicle lanes to the south side and providing a wider pedestrian walkway on the north side of the bridge.

Scheduled to be completed in 2017, the new bridge will be wider than the existing structure and will maintain two traffic lanes, one in each direction.

In December, the City Council directed staff to study the environmental impacts of several options for the bridge, including one that creates a zig-zag ramp on either side of the Pier to decrease the grade for the descent. The project should take about a year to complete, staff said.

Next: Downtown Santa Monica Plots Future, Fills Needs

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