September 25, 2020 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

Planning Board Discusses City Traffic Methodology:

Hannah Heineman

Mirror Staff Writer

After a lengthy discussion, Santa Monica’s Planning Commission has decided to have a subcommittee draft a letter to the City Council requesting that they fund a study of alternative methods of Citywide traffic impact methodology.

The City’s Transportation Manager Lucy Dyke explained that currently the City is utilizing traffic methodology “implemented in 1991” which is the same approach that all cities use. The City counts traffic at peak times during the week, and on the weekends at intersections, and then grades the intersections. The data obtained from those counts is then updated every two years. She also stressed, “Adopting a new methodology isn’t easy.”

Commissioner Barbara Brown noted, “This Commission and myself personally have agitated and fretted over this issue for decades…there’s a disconnect between what we experience and the sort of abstract and meaningless way that we talk about these numbers for intersections for the purpose of Environmental Impact Reports.”

Commissioner Darrell Clarke told his colleagues about all the e-mails he has received complaining that the City has made “no effort to talk about what happens to traffic” during non-peak hours.

The Commission also heard from a number of community members on the issue. Ocean Park Association member Jacob Samuel told the Commission how traffic is “reaching gridlock at Neilson Way and Main Street” at peak hours. He also mentioned there are “more and more residential streets that are being used as thoroughfares.”

Community activist Ellen Brennan discussed another angle by noting the City’s traffic calming measures have only made the situation worse. “Green Santa Monica has increased emissions with creeping traffic while robbing people of irreplaceable time while sitting in traffic jams that didn’t exist several years ago, and remember the population hasn’t increased,” said Brennan.

Commission members also heard from those who advocated for the City to fund the study of alternative methods of traffic impact methodology before the ongoing Circulation Element update of the City’s General Plan is completed. The circulation element sets out the location of existing and proposed roads, highways and other modes of transportation. Council member Kevin McKeown, Council liaison to the Environmental Task Force, read a statement from the Task Force that emphasized, “Without knowing what’s happening now and what the potential impact of changes we make might be, we can’t responsibly project forward and do effective urban design for a City we want to live in.”

Commissioner Clarke expressed his support for the study. “The experience of the community is it’s bad and it’s getting worse. We need to do something about it and not just wait for the Circulation Element update.”

In other action, the Commission unanimously voted to allow Promenade property owners to rent space to retailers without getting a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) as long as their indoor and outdoor restaurant space remains the same.

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