Could This End Differently?
The Main Street outdoor dining al fresco layout we now have has proven far less than the effective rescue plan it promised to be. The good news is that efforts are afoot to experiment with modifications in hopes of moving toward success — becoming a popular social and business district anchored by a thriving restaurant/bar customer base. The bad news is that these efforts are moving at a glacial pace.
Let me declare my own bias — I objected to the center traffic corridor with scattered parking lane parklet seating for socially distanced outdoor dining when it first hatched nearly a year ago. My primary reason was that rather than spreading out serving areas to provide space for enough outdoor socially distanced diners to pay the rent and the employees, it presented choke points where the sidewalk was funneled between store fronts and small corrals of parklet customers with their crowds overflowing or folks just waiting for their place at one of the few parklet seats for service.
Near equal in importance was my sense that bike lane and vehicle traffic close by made outdoor dining far less enticing than eating in an open-air piazza should be. I certainly wouldn’t want bicyclists sneezing on my guacamole as they wheeled by two feet from my table.
I felt all the stakeholders for Main Street not becoming a semi-wasteland, one with too many failed business vacancies and closed restaurants — consider the City dependent on tax revenues — should have addressed the mobility and private automobile issues head on to repurpose pavement for people.
Unfortunately, the planners last spring considered the cohort of private automobile interests too powerful to engage, and the planners made workaround compromises, keeping the center thru traffic lanes and some Main Street parking intact to satisfy those who would otherwise too strongly oppose any changes.
With current science-based predictions that some version of regular life could well return by this coming 4th of July, I think we will never make it to a sustainable Main Street recreation before we just slide back into some lackluster and diminished version of pre-pandemic times.
How happy I’d be if I was wrong about developments not coming in time to bring this business and social district into its full potential as the popular seaside and neighborhood walk-around attraction as it could be, especially when just developing remote parking with effective last mile public transportation could make that possible. With an efficient link between offsite parking and business/social centers, we’d have the seed we’d need to grow a more sustainable Santa Monica.
I applauded the letter that was written so passionately and courageously about the anti-gay speech at Venice Boardwalk and Santa Monica pier, but how sad and telling when I read that he signed it “anonymous.”
Playa del Rey