May 24 , 2020
Dear Mayor McKeown and City Council,
Thank you Mayor and Councilmembers for your thoughtful leadership during this crisis. You are facing an unprecedented task and we thank you for your service to our community.
Recently, two related proposals have come forward that Santa Monica Forward believes can both increase our resilience as a community and help us emerge from this crisis stronger and more united than before. Santa Monica should join the other cities across the state, nation, and world that are already successfully implementing programs like these to support a safe economic recovery. These plans should be grounded in equity, accessibility, and safety for all in our community.
Main Street Open Street and Outdoor Dining Pilot
Santa Monica Forward strongly encourages the City to work with Main Street Business Improvement Association to realize their plan to open Main Street from Pico to Marine for outdoor dining, pedestrians, and micro-mobility, such as bikes, scooters, and other human-scaled transportation by prohibiting car traffic (except in the case of emergencies). While each of the options they present are improvements on the status quo, confronting the impacts of the coronavirus on our local businesses requires a bold response. We specifically encourage the city to pursue “Option 1”. This will allow restaurants and bars to reopen safely and will invite Santa Monica residents to support beloved local businesses—and their employees—that are in danger of failing as a result of the current pandemic. We also hope you will identify safe and equitable options for people with mobility limitations to maintain ADA–compliant access to restaurants, retail, and services on Main Street. Additionally, Option 1 opens the street to residents and visitors alike allowing them to move safely through the street whether they are passing through or on their way to a local restaurant. Similar plans should be explored in partnership with other city BIDs.
Residential Neighborhoods Slow Street Pilots
Santa Monica Forward has joined many other residents and community groups in advocating for the implementation of a neighborhood slow streets pilot program—as many cities in the country are currently adopting—and welcomes the news that such a program is close to realization. It is vital that residents safely access their streets and neighborhoods for essential exercise, recreation, and healthy fresh air for pedestrians and bicyclists, while reducing car speed and traffic. We urge you to ensure that slow streets are distributed equitably throughout the city, especially in residential neighborhoods that primarily feature multifamily housing.
Santa Monica has always prided itself on leading the way in sustainability. Throughout the country, cities have begun rethinking streets as open space as people have had to shelter-in-place to mitigate the spread of Covid-19 and protect the most vulnerable in our community. Kansas City, MO altered its block party permit to allow residents living along low-traffic streets to close their blocks off to all but local traffic, except in case of emergencies. Denver is seeing great success with its emergency “shared streets” program. New York, Seattle, even our neighbor, Los Angeles, have all taken action to open streets to people, recognizing that, as people shelter in place, open space is not a luxury, but essential. And if we don’t provide enough open space, people will simply not have enough room to get exercise, let their kids play safely, or move around while also observing physical distancing rules. Cities around the world are using quick and inexpensive strategies to test new programs like these. Water-filled barriers and basic signage is all it takes to start. These programs are easily reversed or modified because the infrastructure needs are so simple, which can allow these programs to quickly evolve and respond to local needs.
As you know, 70 percent of Santa Monica’s residents live in multifamily apartments or condos, many raising families in these homes without private yards. Moving forward with a pilot program that would allow people living on residential streets to limit car access to slow local traffic and emergency vehicles will create much-needed open space for people to walk, bike, exercise, and otherwise get around. And in the case of Main Street, we strongly believe that we can save our local businesses—and the jobs they provide—quickening our economic recovery through reimagining the street in a way that facilitates the safe movement of people.
We know you are facing hard decisions everyday now. Thank you for your thoughtful consideration and leadership in these hard times. We look forward to working with you to emerge from this crisis stronger together.
Co-chair, Santa Monica Forward Co-chair, Santa Monica Forward