Residents of the Borderline Neighborhood Group in Santa Monica celebrated the transformation of an area of their neighborhood into a so-called sustainable living street during a ceremony late last month.

The reconfigured design of two blocks of Longfellow Street near the border with Venice features new textured pavement, plantings, and lighting, allowing for walking, cycling, socializing, and driving cars to become more integrated activities, said Dennis Woods, Borderline Neighborhood Group Improvement Committee chair. The street is one of the first in the country to have such a design, according to the committee.

The Longfellow Sustainable Living Street Project links the Borderline neighborhood to local parks, transit and the commercial land uses on Lincoln Boulevard.

The $2.1 million project was completed earlier this year on time and within budget, city officials said.

Some neighbors said the area previously lacked aesthetic or sustainable appeal, as streets were narrow and unwelcoming – paved from property to property without sidewalks. The impetus for the project was neighborhood concern over the long-term negative impacts from issues such as adjacent commercial land uses and crime.

The neighbors banded together to identify solutions that would not only beautify the street and improve the environment, but make the area less of a magnet for criminal activities, Woods said.

“This is much more than a street beautification project. It puts more eyes and feet on the street by creating a park where people want to gather, play, walk their dogs and generally enjoy the neighborhood while the street is still open to vehicular access,” Woods said.

“The design follows the Woonerf principles for a shared or living street commonly found in Europe by transforming blighted public space into an innovative and much needed space for neighborhood interaction.”

Robert Rotman, a member of the improvement committee, said, “The Sustainable Living Street turned a crime ridden, dark, unattended street with wall to wall pavement into a new urban open space by implementing ‘eyes on the street theories.’ Isolated streets are ideally suited for the criminal activity and activating the street in a manner where a criminal might be seen and identified can reduce criminal activity.”

The “living street” concept allowed for the planting of new trees and native drought-tolerant landscaping; capture of urban water runoff through the use of bio-swales; and installation of solar pedestrian-scaled lighting and decorative paving. The project is compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

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