Amidst all the recent talk of proposed high rises that
are too tall and a healthy dose of development agreements populating the City
Council agenda, the final design plans for what is effectively Santa Monica’s
welcome center – the Colorado Esplanade – were formally approved Tuesday.
The council unanimously approved only the first phase of
the streetscape project located between the future terminus of the regional
Expo light rail line, the Downtown, and one of the City’s most prominent
landmarks, the Santa Monica Pier.
The full project is anticipated to be completed through
multiple phases, contingent upon subsequent funding.
Still, both Council members and the City staff hope the
Colorado Esplanade will let everyone know – especially those who come into town
once the Expo Line is complete in 2016 – they are in Santa Monica.
“The final design of the Colorado Esplanade… organizes
arrival/departure for drivers, bicyclists, pedestrians and bus and transit
patrons, while creating a City gateway that integrates the beach, Civic Center
and Downtown,” City staff stated.
City staff estimates the entire project will cost $13.7
million; the first phase approved by the council comes with a $10.7 million
price tag, with $9.7 million “secured pending Council approval of the (Fiscal
Year) 2013-14 … Budget in June 2013.”
“The core project includes the re-alignment of Second and
Main Streets, critical infrastructure upgrades on Colorado Avenue between Ocean
Avenue and 4th Street, and the connection between the future station, the Pier
and the new Civic Center parks, but does not include the areas directly
adjacent to the station between 4th and 5th Streets, the Gateway Triangle, or
the proposed improvements for 4th Street north of Colorado,” City staff stated.
For about an hour, Council members and resident provided
their respective input on the project.
Council member Bob Holbrook, for example, recalled when
the California poppy could be found in Santa Monica when he was growing up here
and asked City staff whether the Esplanade could feature wild plants. He also
asked if City staff would consider planting Monkey Puzzle trees.
Meanwhile, Council member Ted Winterer asked about tree
selection. According to the staff report, the Agathis Robusta was chosen as the
primary tree to populate the Esplanade area. The Canary Island Pine and Spotted
Gum trees were alternate selections.
Council member Kevin McKeown expressed concern about the
absence of “The Gateway Triangle Garden,” an area previously included in plans
individuals could sit and “people watch,” in the design iterations presented to
the dais Tuesday evening. In place of the Gateway Triangle Garden was an
Beyond people gazing, another issue that was brought up:
the Holiday Inn on Second Street. Council member Tony Vazquez asked City staff
whether they considered how the Esplanade’s plans fit in with the hotel’s
future redesign. The Holiday Inn currently abuts the area where the Esplanade
A livelier wayfinding system, perhaps one where there is
more than just a sign pointing in a particular direction, was the subject of
Council member Gleam Davis’s questioning. Specifically, she wanted to know how
people coming into Santa Monica but are not from here could be directed in a
lively manner of how to get to the Promenade or the beach from the Expo from
the train station.
Holbrook agreed wayfinding was important and suggested a
mural be created to give people a visual of where they are and where they can
go from the train. However, he did not agree the Gateway Triangle Garden was an
essential element of the Esplanade.
“I’m not sold or convinced it needs to be a big gathering
spot,” Holbrook said of the Gateway Triangle Garden. “My concern about that
area is it would become a refuge for people who’ll just be there all day long
and never leave until night. I’d rather have a garden.”
The former Santa Monica Mayor echoed McKeown’s point
about preserving the Gateway Triangle Garden as a valuable public gathering
location and part of the City’s open space policy
Looking forward, City staff indicated they would seek
grant money to fund the remainder of the project.
The Civic Center Specific Plan was also amended as part
of the vote; the amendment eliminates the Second Street Bridge Extension as a
public improvement project and instead replaces it with a “planned Main to
Second Street alignment proposed by the Colorado Esplanade project.”
Copyright © 2011 by Santa Monica Mirror. All rights reserved.