Santa Monica announces start of “Sharing an Open Main Street” July 24-25
By Sam Catanzaro
Weekend traffic closures on Santa Monica’s Main Street are set to begin later this month.
This week the City of Santa Monica announced that weekend closures of a portion of Main Street will kick off July 24 – 25. In addition, closures will occur on the weekends of August 21 – 22, September 18 – 19, and October 16 – 17. The pilot program, known as “Sharing an Open Main Street”, will transform the two blocks between Hill and Kinney streets to a pedestrian plaza.
“This is a pilot that builds on the creative ways we’ve adapted our sidewalks and public spaces during the pandemic,” said Santa Monica Mayor Sue Himmelrich. “Now that we can safely gather again, Main Street is a perfect backdrop for a summer block party in support of the small, local businesses that kept us going throughout the last year. I hope to see many familiar faces out on Main Street!”
The pilot program was initiated by the Main Street Business Improvement Association and Ocean Park Association and approved by Santa Monica City Council last month.
“For years, merchants and residents have wanted to explore the possibility of making Main Street more pedestrian and cyclist friendly. This is our opportunity and we’re very excited to be a part of it,” said Hunter Hall, Executive Director of the Main Street Business Improvement Association.
According to the City, vehicle traffic will be detoured from Main Street to Neilson Way. At the June 8 City Council meeting where the pilot program was approved, many nearby residents spoke out against the closures citing concerns surrounding traffic in residential areas.
“I do not oppose outdoor or al fresco dining. What I oppose is closing any part of Main Street, whether a pilot or permanently, because it goes through a residential neighborhood. And no matter how many traffic diversion proposals we make and are presented with, they are not going to work. If you live in this neighborhood, you know that on a busy weekend–that means any sunny weekend, any beach weekend–people are driving all around the neighborhood, parking on our streets, endangering the kids who are playing. If Main Street were like State Street in Santa Barbara running through a more commercial part of the city, I would have a different opinion. But Main Street goes through a residential neighborhood that was never appropriately set up for this kind of opportunity,” said Bea Nemlaha, a 40-year resident of Santa Monica.
Main Street is a major north-south thoroughfares, connecting Santa Monica and Venice, and as part of the pilot, the City will be looking at any traffic disruptions closures may lead to.
“Main Street is obviously not a backwater street in any way. It’s a street that serves major transit corridors, major vehicle flow, it is a very important street for the City and it’s a thoroughfare. So we obviously support the active use of outdoor spaces and want to see the maximum community utility from this space, but I think we would really have to look carefully at the outcomes of this pilot before assuming anything about next steps,” said Francie Stefan, Santa Monica’s Acting Chief Mobility Officer/Assistant Director of Planning & Community Development.
During the four weekends, bus stops within the plaza footprint will be temporarily closed. According to the City, temporary bus stops will be placed outside of the pedestrian zone to serve riders. In addition, bicyclists and scooter users will need to dismount within the plaza footprint.