A massive development project proposed for the point where El Segundo, Hawthorne and Manhattan Beach converge has prompted discussion of a traffic assessment district that would coordinate the cities' efforts to reduce traffic in the already congested area.
The proposed 1.1-million-square-foot extension of the Continental Park office and retail complex would be built in El Segundo on the northwest corner of Rosecrans Avenue and Aviation Boulevard--one of the most congested intersections in the South Bay, county reports show.
Traffic at the intersection is already "beyond capacity," with more than 85,000 vehicles passing through each weekday carrying aerospace workers and residents from the beach cities to the San Diego Freeway, according to an environmental report prepared for the project.
"Traffic is so bad at the intersection now, that even if you put a 7-Eleven on that setting there is going to be a problem," El Segundo Planning Director Lynn Harris said in an interview.
The Continental project, combined with similar development planned in neighboring Manhattan Beach and Hawthorne, will aggravate the problem, planning officials said.
Continental Development Corp., which would build the proposed project in El Segundo, suggested the formation of the district to widen the Rosecrans-Aviation intersection and make other road improvements that might benefit the three cities.
To get city approval of its project, Continental must make some traffic improvements regardless of whether a district is formed. Formation of a district, however, would make that process easier and would ensure that future developments pay their share of road improvements that their projects require.
"The bottom line is that we can't battle this area's traffic problems alone," said Jerry Saunders, Continental's planning director. "With large construction projects planned in all three cities, everyone stands to gain from a district where jurisdictions work together to solve collective traffic problems. The three cities are so close that it is impossible to build in one area without impacting your neighbor."
For example, altering the Rosecrans-Aviation intersection to accommodate the development boom would require a coordinated effort between El Segundo and Hawthorne because a Santa Fe Railroad viaduct over the intersection is grounded in each city.
Plans for the district are sketchy but Continental officials say the idea is to have cities and developers--including Continental--contribute to a general fund for road improvements. Though Hawthorne and Manhattan Beach have not been officially approached about the assessment district, officials in those cities responded to the idea enthusiastically.
"I certainly think this is something Hawthorne would be interested in since (traffic) is not a problem any one city can deal with alone," said Bud Cormier, Hawthorne's assistant director of redevelopment. Hawthorne is planning a major redevelopment project less than a mile east of the intersection.
"This whole area is headed toward complete gridlock," Cormier said. "I think everyone will welcome a new method of solving an old problem."
Manhattan Beach planning officials expect to join the district if it is formed since the city already shares a traffic planner with El Segundo and has a history of working with that city to combat traffic jams along Rosecrans Avenue and Sepulveda Boulevard.
In El Segundo, Planning Director Harris called the proposal "a great idea."
"It shows that developers have learned that they can't come into El Segundo and build what they want without accepting responsibility," she said.
The El Segundo City Council is expected to approve the Continental Park project next month, along with a record 61 conditions suggested by the Planning Commission. The conditions would, among other things, require the developer to encourage car pooling, construct turn lanes on Rosecrans and Aviation and provide public access to a proposed light-rail system that is slated to pass through El Segundo along the railroad line.
Planning commissioners said the project will improve the image of the city's southeastern gateway by replacing the existing pipe-manufacturing operation on the lot with modern office buildings and landscaping.
The City Council was originally scheduled to vote on the Continental project in mid-July, but postponed the vote until August.