City council passes Agenda Item 13-C with rare unanimous 7-0 vote

Agenda Item 13-C, proposed by Councilmembers Davis and Parra, requested approval and budget requests for a trial program to close three of the more restaurant-dense blocks of Santa Monica’s Main Street to vehicular traffic — in effect, an experimental “Open Streets” configuration that will provide street pavement for community use, street space made available by removing thru traffic.

While proposed for only a couple of short Saturday morning to Sunday evening experiments, it promises to learn what the plan would need to make it work and see how Santa Monica could deliver it — and if, indeed, “Open Streets” could work on Main Street.

And aye, there’s the rub. How will our mobility and traffic experts mitigate all the concerns about diverted traffic disturbing so many of the critical balances that make Ocean Park such a special area? (Full disclosure: I bought my nearly 100-year-old converted triplex in 1976 and live there happily with my beautiful wife and cat.)

It looks like real efforts to unravel the Gordian knot that tangles walkaround street conversions have been kickstarted with the Council’s ask to all the Santa Monica expert staff that they work on budgets and the real nitty-gritty details that could make a successful walkaround attraction for our community and businesses to enjoy.

I put in my suggestion that they find some great entertainment director talent to organize some time and space for all the tremendous performance talent that has been COVID bottled for so long. Think what our music and dance high school talent could do if we gave them some stage time. While I’m not suggesting that the experiment be warped into some type of street festival that could obscure the data from the experiment with noise from festive celebration — I do think the experiment needs to attract people if we are to see what happens and whether we can forge a path for other Santa Monica streets.

(Again, full disclosure: My mother was a transportation citizen activist for a couple of decades in the Seattle area, so my bias is that the better we can move people around without sacrificing vital city space and air to private automobiles, the better our lives will be.)

Difficult to see whether this is the hockey game’s face-off or just some warm-up skating around the rink. It’s likely more a warm-up, but I’m personally overjoyed that we’re at least lacing up our skates.

Tim Tunks
Santa Monica