The Santa Monica City Council denied vehicle access to Airport Avenue by students attending the Santa Monica Community College District’s new Bundy Campus.
“Airport Avenue is a two-lane road, not a public street,” said Susan McCarthy, Santa Monica city manager, at a City Council meeting Tuesday, July 26th.
“We will be entering a period of construction on Airport Avenue, which will make passage for pedestrian or vehicles difficult,” she said.
Construction on a new city park called Airport Park — located across Airport Avenue from the Bundy Campus — is scheduled to begin Tuesday, November 1st, and continue for 15 months.
Santa Monica residents who live in Sunset Park also complained to the City Council that student use of Airport Avenue would block traffic on nearby 23rd Street.
“We are not trying to blockade the roads or make it so that people can’t drive around town,” said Tom Donner, the college district’s interim president. “The college is really not a major source of traffic in Santa Monica.”
Donner said the Bundy Campus may have to cancel classes for the fall semester that had been scheduled to begin Monday, August 29th, or move those classes to the main campus.
The 10.4-acre Bundy Campus is at 3171 Bundy Drive in the City of Los Angeles neighborhood of Mar Vista and directly adjacent to Santa Monica Airport in Santa Monica.
Entrances and exits to and from the campus could exist from Bundy Drive in Los Angeles and Airport Avenue in Santa Monica.
However, college officials believe using Bundy Drive is not safe unless the City of Los Angeles agrees to install a traffic signal.
The Los Angeles Department of Transportation has repeatedly refused to install the signal, arguing that another signal would jam traffic in Mar Vista.
Greg Brown, college district director of facilities, said drivers traveling southbound on Bundy Drive could safely turn right to enter or exit the campus.
Brown said safety is an issue if drivers traveling northbound on Bundy Drive want to turn left to enter or exit the campus without a traffic signal.
The college district wants access to both Bundy Drive and Airport Avenue so that traffic from Los Angeles could return to Los Angeles and traffic from Santa Monica could return to Santa Monica.
“People who live in Sunset Park don’t want us to have access to Airport Avenue and people who live in Mar Vista don’t want us to have access to Bundy Drive,” said Rob Rader, a college district trustee.
“We can’t please all those groups, so we should come up with solutions that nobody finds optimal but we all find at least livable,” he said.
The City of Santa Monica closed Airport Avenue access to the Bundy Campus shortly after the college district bought the site.
BAE Systems, a defense contractor and former owner of the site, had unlimited access to Airport Avenue for its employees.
Donner said the Bundy Campus should have the same kind of access that BAE had.
“Everything we had seen that the city prepared and paperwork we received indicated the property would continue to have access from Airport Avenue,” Donner said.
To address the concerns of Sunset Park residents, Donner said the college district would agree to not allow students to turn left on Airport Avenue toward 23rd Street.
The Santa Monica City Council ignored the college district request, but agreed to continue discussing the issue with the college district and officials from Santa Monica and Los Angeles.
“We don’t know what impact construction on Airport Park will have on Airport Avenue,” said Pam O’Connor, Santa Monica mayor. “I can’t do this until I have more information. We should not do this blindly.”
When construction starts on Airport Park, the college district will also have to move a shuttle lot the college district currently leases from Santa Monica Airport.
Councilmembers agreed to extend temporary pedestrian access to the Bundy Campus until Airport Park construction starts.