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Widening Santa Monica Blvd. Seen as Threat to 2 Cities' Quality of Life

December 12, 1985|MATHIS CHAZANOV | Times Staff Writer

The City Councils of West Hollywood and Beverly Hills say the economic well-being and quality of life in the two cities will be damaged if the state Department of Transportation carries out a plan to widen Santa Monica Boulevard.

"There are alternatives which will improve existing transportation systems while protecting nearby homes and businesses . . . alternatives (that) have not been adequately analyzed or properly considered by the state as part of this project," the councils said in a joint resolution.

The resolution urges the state to work with officials of the two cities to develop "more comprehensive alternatives," but they gave no concrete suggestions.

Passed by West Hollywood last week and Beverly Hills on Tuesday, the resolution will be submitted to Caltrans. The agency is seeking public reaction to its proposals, which range from doing nothing to building an underground tunnel at a cost of more than $100 million.

State Jurisdiction

The boulevard, which extends from the sea to the Hollywood Freeway, comes under Caltrans' jurisdiction because it is a state highway, officially designated as California 2.

According to a draft report drawn up by state engineers, the six-mile stretch from the San Diego Freeway to Fairfax Avenue is congested every day and has an above-average accident rate, with long delays and speeds under 20 m.p.h.

The statement by the two cities acknowledged that transportation needs to be improved along the east-west thoroughfare, but it stressed that homes and businesses should be protected.

Although the document cited no specific alternatives, officials of both cities have said an underground tunnel would go a long way to meet their concerns.

They said anything less would merely draw traffic to Santa Monica Boulevard and add to the existing problems of noise, congestion and air pollution.

Mark Winogrond, director of community development for West Hollywood, said officials there would like to see "a much more comprehensive alternative," including measures to reduce public reliance on the automobile.

Irwin Moss Kaplan, planning director for Beverly Hills, said in a separate document submitted to Caltrans that an eight-lane tunnel could be funded by an assessment against any existing or future developments that would benefit from the project.

Several Proposals

Other proposed solutions include removing the center strip once occupied by railroad tracks to make room for extra lanes of traffic.

Another proposal is to make the stretch of the boulevard west of Century City into parallel one-way streets.

The least expensive solution, estimated by Caltrans at about $1 million, includes a ban on parking during rush hours. West Hollywood Mayor John Heilman told a hearing last month that this would hurt businesses in the year-old city.

He also said removing the old railroad right of way would torpedo the city's plans to make the area along Santa Monica Boulevard into a village-like environment.

Although the other solutions would cost considerably more, local officials said they have learned from Caltrans that money already allocated for the current fiscal year could be used to pay for such a minimal solution.

No decision on the project is expected until next summer.

An earlier proposal for a freeway was abandoned in 1975 after a concerted attack was mounted by residents and elected officials.

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