In the wake of a second recent transit tragedy at 19th Street and Idaho Avenue, Mayor Gleam Davis, along with Councilmembers Caroline Torosis and Jesse Zwick, asked their Santa Monica Council Colleagues on Tuesday evening to consider strengthening the city’s “Vision Zero” policy commitment to eradicate pedestrian and cycling injuries and fatalities.
“One of the issues I think we can all agree on, is that we want our streets to be safe for all people,” said local activist and previous city council candidate Natalya Zernitskaya, who spoke in favor of strengthening Vision Zero. “Every single person that’s needlessly injured or killed is a preventable tragedy, and we have the tools and resources to make our streets safe for all,” she added.
Resident Eli Gill, who lives in the Wilmont area near Idaho Avenue, says that Google Maps tells drivers to avoid Wilshire by using streets like Washington Boulevard “Every time.” Of the many who use Washington to walk and bike to schools, parks, and churches, “They need protection from the mayhem we’re experiencing on the streets,” he said, adding, “Stop paying lip service to Vision Zero. You can’t just say ‘We’re Vision Zero.’ You have to do the things that are necessary – analyze every accident, get ahead of things, and do the things that are preventable before we have to experience these tragedies again.”
Marcie Kravitz, who lives on the corner of 19th and Idaho, spoke passionately about people she knew or knows personally suffering tragic results on the streets of her neighborhood. “My mind can’t comprehend why this intersection wasn’t already made safer after so much community noise, a casualty, and years of neighbors asking for a four-way stop at this exact location,” she said. “It shouldn’t take a casualty to make our streets safer for our entire community.”
“This is an epidemic of road violence,” said Zwick. “There are more people murdered by cars than guns, or any other source, in L.A. County. And we need to do more if we’re serious about a clean and safe Santa Monica.” He later admonished the city, pointing out that people have written the city about a number of dangerous streets, and their appeals have been rejected. “Ultimately,” he added, “We’ve decided that it’s more important to prioritize getting people quickly in and out of our city on 23rd Street than it is to people crossing to go to the park.”
“While it’s important that we have police and fire and public safety out in our streets – safety to me is bikeable, walkable streets; it’s safe routes to school; it’s safe, habitable housing; it’s clean drinking water,” said Torosis. “And that’s what our responsibility is here as councilmembers, is to make sure we have a safe city that functions well. And quite frankly, we can do better.” She further added that safer transit won’t come about with a “Business as usual mindset.” She also encouraged her colleagues and staff to prioritize this now, and not just when resources become available.
Acknowledging there may not always be an officer present to enforce traffic measures, Mayor Davis said, “The best thing we can do is engineer safer streets.” She also lamented the fact that most residents consider any stop sign a “Suggestion” rather than “A compelling need to stop their cars.” She added, “I think we need to go beyond some of the obvious and quick fixes and really talk about how are we going to engineer our streets over the long haul.”
Davis was also keen to have the city apply for what she says are a number of grants available at various levels of government that can fund safety improvements. She mentioned that Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, who Davis endorsed in the 2020 presidential primaries, has made Vision Zero one of his priorities.
Councilmember Phil Brock confirmed that he, like Zwick, received a number of pleas from residents about any number of unsafe streets and intersections. “Every accident traumatizes a neighborhood,” he said. Brock wants to be sure the message to the police department is that the council wants them to enforce traffic laws. But he was also open to changing the streets themselves. “I agree with Councilmember Zwick. Those stop signs should have been put in years ago. And we should have been taking action this whole time.”
The council voted unanimously to support a renewed commitment to Vision Zero, 6-0. Councilmember Lana Negrete was absent.
Photo by supergenijalac