The Santa Monica City Council agreed Tuesday, November 8th, to allow Santa Monica College Bundy Campus students to exit onto Airport Avenue in Santa Monica and turn right to reach Bundy Drive in Los Angeles.
Councilmembers agreed to the plan contingent on the City of Los Angeles installing a traffic signal on Bundy Drive so that students could also enter and exit the campus from Bundy Drive.
After years of negotiations, the City of Santa Monica, the City of Los Angeles, and Santa Monica College have agreed to this short- term solution of letting students use Airport Avenue to relieve some traffic congestion off of Bundy Drive.
The Bundy Campus, which officially opened in the summer, is at 3171 S. Bundy Drive, in the Mar Vista neighborhood of Los Angeles.
The campus is adjacent to Santa Monica Airport and the Sunset Park neighborhood in Santa Monica.
“There has been a lot of animosity back and forth, especially from members of the [Santa Monica City] Council and the college has made errors,” said Santa Monica mayor pro tem Herb Katz. “We need to come a long way from where we started.
“The main thing is to make sure there is a safe access for the students.”
When the site was formerly occupied by defense contractor BAE Systems, employees had three access points: Bundy Drive and Stewart Avenue from Mar Vista and Airport Avenue from Santa Monica.
Santa Monica College bought the property in 2001 and residents from Mar Vista and Sunset Park complained that student use would create more traffic in their neighborhoods.
The City of Santa Monica closed access from Airport Avenue by locking a driveway gate that leads into the Bundy Campus.
The City of Los Angeles restricted access by allowing only a limited number of students, handicapped students, and college staff to drive into the campus parking lot.
“At the time that a mitigated negative declaration was done, we were not aware that the City of Santa Monica was going to restrict educational access to the facility,” said Thomas Donner, interim president of Santa Monica College.
“We were under the assumption that we would continue to be treated as equally as a defense contractor was for 50 years,” he said.
Access to the campus from Stewart Avenue — which runs through a residential area — was voluntarily restricted by college officials for emergency vehicle use only.
Donner said that — unlike BAE employees — college students would not hesitate to park in front of Stewart Avenue residences and walk a few yards to the campus.
Although students had been prohibited from using Stewart Avenue and Airport Avenue, the limited number of students allowed into the parking lot were using Bundy Drive to enter and exit the campus.
Donner and Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl — who represents Mar Vista in the 11th Council District — said the Bundy Drive access point is not safe because there are no protected left turns.
Drivers who make left turns from or onto the Bundy Drive northbound lane to enter and exit the campus would have to avoid cars on the southbound lane.
Rosendahl at first refused to allow a traffic signal at Bundy Drive because he said a third traffic signal would create traffic jams on Bundy Drive.
The other two traffic signals are at the intersection of Bundy Drive and Rose Avenue and the intersection of Bundy Drive and Airport Avenue.
He changed his mind about installing a traffic signal after recently witnessing a near-miss accident when a driver exited the Bundy Campus and made a left turn onto Bundy Drive by dodging a southbound car.
“The issue is out of hand and causing serious safety concerns,” Rosendahl said.
“When a student drives out of the parking lot and tries to make a left turn, there is a potential auto wreck,” he said. “When a student drives north on Bundy and tries to make a left turn into the parking lot, there is a potential auto wreck.”
Donner and Santa Monica College officials had wanted use of both Bundy Drive and Airport Avenue so that Los Angeles students could enter and exit from Bundy and Santa Monica students could enter and exit from Airport.
Rosendahl agreed that the two access points are fair to the residents of both cities.
He said he would “aggressively pursue” getting Los Angeles City Council approval of a traffic signal on Bundy Drive and getting the Los Angeles Department of Transportation to install the signal within six months.
“The City of Santa Monica and the City of Los Angeles are dealing with the reality that neither of us had anything to do with, which was the college building itself on a piece of land contiguous to our boundaries,” Rosendahl said.
“Bundy Drive is a dangerous curve and we must do something about it right now because it would be irresponsible for us as cities to let this continue another day,” he said.
Santa Monica City Councilmembers agreed that Bundy Campus students could exit Airport Avenue and make right turns only if the City of Los Angeles installs a traffic signal before the end of the spring semester.
Santa Monica College must waive any property right claim to an easement from Airport Avenue to the Bundy Campus and indemnify the city from liability related to the city’s decision to allow the exit.
“The city makes Airport Avenue open to the general public and has not stopped the general public from proceeding on Airport Avenue,” Donner said.
“All that we are requesting is that the fence be reopened so that cars are able to drive out onto a street the city has made available to everyone else in the community,” he said.