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Santa Monica to Finish Bikeway Despite 'Gold Coast' Protests

January 05, 1986|KENNETH J. FANUCCHI | Staff Writer

When bicyclists traveling north reach the end of the beach bicycle path in Santa Monica, they are confronted with perilous options to get back on the path half a mile up the beach in Pacific Palisades.

They can try to cross heavily traveled Pacific Coast Highway to ride on the legal side of the road, they can attempt to negotiate their way around parked cars blocking an uncompleted sidewalk on the wrong side of the highway, or they can simply turn around and go back where they came from.

"None of the choices are very good," said Stanley E. Scholl, director of the Santa Monica General Services Department. "That is why we want to finish what is the only gap in a 19-mile beach bikeway that now runs all the way from Torrance to Temescal Canyon Road in Pacific Palisades."

The problem is that the proposed addition runs along the Gold Coast, a patch of residences built in the 1920s and '30s by such Hollywood moguls as Louis B. Mayer, Darryl Zanuck and Harold Lloyd.

Protests by Residents

The residents have managed to block construction of the bikeway for at least nine years, according to Scholl, who added that the city will try to complete a job that even the county has not been able to finish.

The county Public Works Department has had a $240,000 contract since last January to design and build the bikeway stretch but has been stymied by opposition from property owners along the route, according to a department official. Protests, not lawsuits, deterred the county, according to county officials.

John Jalili, Santa Monica city manager, said, "We have been willing to make adjustments in the path but we're not willing to not build it." The city will get the $240,000 the county had allotted.

Ronald J. Ornee, assistant manager of the programs development division of the Public Works Department, said that the county is prepared to let Santa Monica do the job because those opposing the project live in the city.

Stars Are Gone

"If there had been no opposition," Ornee said, "the project probably would have been finished by now. But it is not unusual to get opposition to projects that we consider to be in the public interest."

Although a few film personalities still live in the Gold Coast, among them Zanuck's son, Richard, the occupations of the property owners are more diverse, according to Fred E. Harris, a financial consultant and president of the Palisades Beach Property Owners Assn.

"We had a fabled past," Harris said. "But it is not that way now."

Vivian Rothstein, assistant to the director of the Santa Monica Recreation and Parks Department, said that opposition to the bikeway is a classic disagreement over "who owns the beach. Is it the public or the property owners of the houses and beach clubs built there? The city maintains that the beach belongs to the public."

Harris said that opponents of the bikeway have no personal stake in opposing the project. "Anytime we open our mouths about anything," Harris said, "we are accused of acting out of selfish interests.

"We have opposed the bikeway because, while it will be a great boon to a few bikers, the millions of beach users who want to sun and swim will be deprived of 14 feet of sand being paved over for the path."

'Just Wait and See'

Harris said that most property owners along the proposed bikeway have reluctantly accepted the fact that the project will be completed. "You just wait and see," he said, "it will be controversial when the public realizes they are going to lose a lot of beach to accommodate a few bicyclists, not to mention skateboarders, skaters and people simply walking on the path."

Santa Monica's Scholl characterized any suggestion that only a few bicyclists use the bikeway as "baloney."

"Thousands of bicyclists use it," he said.

When completed, the path will link the south end of the bikeway near California Avenue with a 1.5-mile section of the path recently completed by the city of Los Angeles from 150 feet north of the Santa Monica city limit to Temescal Canyon.

At the canyon intersection with Pacific Coast Highway, there is a traffic light, making it safe for bicyclists to get to the right side of the street to continue north, Scholl said.

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