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Residents Get on the Bus:

Putting their cars aside to be chauffeured around on a bus, residents got a chance to view several of Santa Monica’s Capital Improvement Projects with the City’s 9th annual “Whole Lotta Projects Goin’ On.”

This year’s tour, held on Saturday, July 14, emphasized the City’s parks. One of the stops was Euclid Park, which had its grand opening the day after the tour. After that stop, the tour drove by the 2.9-acre former Fisher Lumber site which was purchased by the City in 2005 for what will most likely be an expansion of Memorial Park and possibly a site for underground drinking water storage. Karen Ginsberg, the City’s Assistant Director of Community and Cultural Services, mentioned that the City is “trying to identify funding” for a project at this site. Once it does, the community planning process will begin.

The tour then passed by the Cove Skate Park, which opened in Memorial Park in 2005. However, lighting was just added earlier this year for night skating. The tour also stopped briefly at Virginia Avenue Park, at 9.5-acres one of the City’s largest parks. The last park that the tour highlighted was the new 8.3-acre Airport Park which opened on April 29.

Also part of the tour was a stop at the recently opened 900-space Civic Center parking structure located directly behind the County Courthouse on Main Street. The structure incorporates several sustainable design elements including solar panels on the roof to generate its electricity and provide shade. It also has public art elements on each floor to help people identify which floor they parked their car on. At this time, there is a $6 flat fee to park in the structure.

Tour participants also got the chance to drive through the Big Blue Bus Transportation Yard. The City’s Director of Environmental and Public Works Management, Craig Perkins, pointed out the yard is the “nerve center for a fleet of over 200 buses, and half of those buses use liquefied natural gas.” As part of an update of the yard, the City has already built a new liquefied natural gas facility and washing facility on 7th Street, and later this year will start construction on a new bus maintenance facility.

Perkins also discussed some projects that will be coming up, including the Pier Access Improvement Project. One goal of this project is to “make the Pier more usable and safe for pedestrians by putting sidewalks on both sides of the bridge and having lower curb cuts.” Other goals are to seismically strengthen the bridge and possibly have a ramp that goes from the bridge to the beach parking lot. The City Council will be discussing the Environmental Impact Report for this project in September. Perkins mentioned that 85 percent of the funding for this project would be coming from the Federal government, and construction is expected to begin in the spring of 2009.

Another upcoming project will be to improve the Palisades Bluffs so they are more stable, without jeopardizing their historic character, beauty or use. The Council will be reviewing the first phase of this project next month. Like the Pier, the $6 million funding for the project will be coming from the Federal government.

The tour is part of the City’s “Leadership Series,” which are short courses on City government. The last course took place in the spring and is on the City’s website.

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