The opening of a reconstructed California Incline is a cause for celebration. Or perhaps not, as I ask in my City Observed commentary for KBU, radioimalibu.net and select websites.
To be sure, the landmark connecting downtown Santa Monica with the PCH, has been redesigned to accommodate pedestrians and bicyclists, and most importantly seismically upgraded.
And as before the 17 month reconstruction, the bridge edging the Palisades Park cliffs offers great views of the sprawling shoreline curving westward to the Malibu ocean front silhouette.
Nice, if you are a tourist framing a selfie, and perhaps recalling scenes from the movie “Its a Mad, Mad, World.” or “Knocked Up.” And the view of the sunsets from the Incline is in a word, spectacular.
The storied sandy beach beckons, and so does the diversions of the Santa Monica pier.
But it is not so nice if you are one of the 80,000 commuters who drive the PCH daily; it being a long. long traffic light at the Incline, and particularly frustrating for the estimated 15,000 who actually traverse the Incline between the PCH and Santa Monica.
The crush of increasing traffic on PCH is bad enough, what with rush hour now expanding to most hours of the work week, and the weekends near impossible with the rising waves of beachgoers.
But worse is downtown Santa Monica., whether just driving through it and having to negotiate the stop and go traffic and the pedestrians seemingly impervious to cross walk cautions.
Add to this the bumptious bicyclists, with the result traffic becomes a frustrating crawl, block after block, and maddening if you are looking for a parking space.
What is happening is that area residents, and that includes those living in Malibu, as well as the Pacific Palisades and also Santa Monica itself, are simply avoiding downtown.
They’re seemingly are abandoning it to the tourists and the L.A, at large crowed, reminding one of the old faded Westwood weekend scenes 40 years ago, only worse.
To be sure, on the surface Santa Monica is booming: restaurants are full, retail sales are up, and rents and property prices at record highs. All of this is filling the city ‘s coffers, fattening the already bloated local bureaucracy and making the bean counters happy. Or so it seems.
It certainly has Santa Monica’s voluble city manager Rick Cole, concerned, who stated in his blog that city traffic officials have “never seen this number of people and volume of traffic” in Santa Monica before.
He noted that crowds were getting bigger and visitors are staying later, and declared the city has “finally hit the tipping point, with many local residents are saying, ‘Nobody goes Downtown anymore, it’s too crowded.'”
To ease the situation, Cole did announce several mitigating measures, including promoting more walking, biking and public transit, facilitating the traffic flow, and adding more fringe parking. They might help.
Meanwhile, I’m glad the incline has been made safe.
But frankly I don’t expect the traffic situation to improve in downtown Santa Monica or on the PCH, and that more and more Malibu residents will be avoiding the Incline and Santa Monica, as well, preferring going over the hill to Agoura and Westlake to shop, eat, go to a movie, whatever.
There are certainly lessons in this for sanctimonious Santa Monica, and misanthropic Malibu too.