Thursday, October 9, 2008

Reason #6 This measure will seriously affect the ability to humanize Lincoln Blvd and Pico.

Okay, show of hands if you think Lincoln Boulevard conjures up your image of a funky little beach town. How about Pico? Does the seemingly endless string of used car dealers, car repair shops, fast food joints, and car washes, hovering about 8 feet away from 7 lanes of fast moving traffic just make you yearn for those lazy days spent watching surfers from your beach chair and eating funnel cakes on the pier?

Okay, maybe it's because I've only lived here for three years, maybe I haven't yet been jaded by all the schmutz (a technical term we urban designers use) on these two corridors, but I simply can't accept them as appropriate for a community that prides itself on being among the most sustainable in the nation.

So let's call Lincoln for what it automobile sewer.

But in this case, past doesn't necessarily have to be prologue (at least not the recent past). Both corridors could be made more humane, more pedestrian friendly, more like something we'd be proud of than something we'd avoid.

Lincoln is the tougher of the two as it is a state-owned road, and a very wide one at that. But there are wider and more pedestrian friendly boulevards in the world. The key is what happens at the edges. Can Lincoln be developed with wider sidewalks, so as sites are redeveloped the new building face is set further back to permit a larger sidewalk (a minimum of 16' is necessary, but I'd suggest up to a 30' sidewalk along Lincoln)? Can adequate street planting and pedestrian scaled lighting be provided? Can we, with some sort of "form based design code," assure that new buildings have ground floors that are scaled to the pedestrian, in terms of windows, signage and architectural detail? And yes, dare I say, it maybe some of them, could be up to four stories in height!! Not all of them, as I'm not interested in a four-story buzz cut look, but some, you know at busier intersections for example, so that we could actually develop some of that idiosyncracy that beach towns tend to offer.

"Let's not canyonize Lincoln" is the response I've heard, when something remotely resembling this vision is offered. One current candidate for City Council called my "vision" for Lincoln "apalling," even before she knew what it was (I'd say with her gift of precognition, maybe I should vote for her).

But I'm not talking about a canyon. I'm talking about buildings that are of a scale appropriate to the width of the thoroughfare. I'm talking about what we in the Urban Design world refer to as, "framing the street," i.e., designing the street to be as much a public space as it is a thoroughfare for cars. It's the condition that makes Wilshire decent, and Lincoln, not. On Pico, which is consderably narrower, buildings should be somewhat shorter. And in all cases buildings should be designed to transition to the residential neighborhood behind them. This is all doable - with redevelopment, i.e of course, the kind that RIFT will, in essence, prohibit. So voting yes for Proposition T, is also like saying Lincoln Blvd. is just fine the way it is.


Darrell said...

A limitation to redevelopment along much of Lincoln in Santa Monica (also in Venice) is its shallow lot depth next to residential zoning.

That's a reason the Land Use and Circulation Element (LUCE) update focused on large parcels like the current Albertsons at Ocean Park Blvd. for redevelopment.

Anonymous said...

Humanize Lincoln and Pico... More development, more traffic, higher riced businesses to pay the higher rents in new retail uses..Is this how to gumanize a street. Next Thing, nneal will be telling us that development doesn't create traffic or global wamring.

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