On Saturday, March 23, 2013, I went to the annual
meeting of Mid-City Neighbors (one of the 7 off-
icial neighborhoods in Santa Monica) held at the
main library.

I exited the parking structure on 7th Street at about
3:15 PM, turned west to Santa Monica Blvd, which was
solid with cars. Traffic was at a stand-still. For
the next 20 minutes I sat in gridlock traffic.

In 20 minutes my car had progressed one block and
a half. I live just south of the pier, and figured
that at this rate it would take me at least 2 hours
to get home, so I turned north when in another 10
minutes I finally reached Santa Monica and 5th Street

5th street was moving slowly. I reached Arizona, headed
for Lincoln. Lincoln was a parking lot. It took me
another 12 minutes to go one block on Lincoln where
I managed to turn left on Santa Monica Boulevard. It
was clear going east. In 50 minutes I was 2 blocks
farther from home than when I started with no way in
sight to get around the gridlock

Downtown gridlock used to start at 5th Street going
west. Now that Colorado has been closed, gridlock
starts east of Lincoln. And it was locked tight.

On my gridlocked path, there were NO people walking.
It was as if this line of traffic was sitting in
a deserted City. It was eerie. But keep in mind
that residents already know not to go downtown.

Also keep in mind that not one single building of
the 35 development agreements in the hopper has been
built. Not one. Only one street has been closed.
And that one street closing has locked the gridlock
tighter than it’s ever been since the City started
engineering the traffic downtown. This does not
portend well for the future of downtown Santa Monica
as City planners and developers envision it.
I suggest they check out the conditions on the ground
before they proceed. Everybody seems to think they
can squeeze 35 more developments into Santa Monica
and the world will just move over and make room.

Doesn’t work that way. When streets get choked with
traffic, just one more car (just one) can lock the
traffic and make it immovable. I suggest that the
planners get out of their theoretics and go check the
condition on the ground. They may be in for a shock,
particularly on weekends. When the light rail is finished,
it’s likely more people will arrive via train, but as
Rod Gould has acknowledged, the bulk of people from
all over Southern California will continue to arrive
— by car. In fact, the light rail may do very little
to alleviate gridlock on the ground. and wishful
thinking won’t make it different.

Ellen Brennan


  1. Hi,
    I know Ellen personally and she’s a senior citizen.  If she wants to drive two miles where some of you might walk, I think she’s entitled to do so.
    Unlike the people who posted the above comments, I’m a real local resident and I think the persistent gridlock in Santa Monica is terrible.  Most residents feel the same.  Just for me to drive two miles from my home to Trader Joe’s often takes half an hour even at off-peak times.

    And no, there isn’t a train to Trader Joe’s.

    The comments above, suggesting that we as local residents should sell our cars and take the train, are typical of what developers when they are trying to get approval for new skyscrapers in Santa Monica.  
    For those who don’t know, 24 story towers are planned at three locations downtown, with many smaller buildings also proposed by city planners.  The gridlock will get worse.

    My name is Jim Pickrell and I teach at Los Angeles City College. I oppose any new construction projects due to the traffic impact.

    To the folks who wrote the comments above criticizing Ellen: I challenge you to reveal your real names and affiliations.  No real Santa Monica resident thinks gridlock is OK.

  2. Be glad if you can walk and bike in Santa Monica, because one day you may wake up and find your body is no longer physically able to do so. Not all Santa Monica residents are so fortunate. The point is, traffic is already at a standstill on some streets before any of the DA’s in the pipeline have even started construction. Does anyone seriously believe it will stay the same or improve after these projects are built? Traffic jams may encourage people to bike, walk, or take public transit, but only if they are physically able to. It also requires that public transit be convenient in terms of distance, time, frequency and cost. Not everyone in the city is afforded that luxury. The best solution I see is to have developers provide parking for dayworkers around the perimeter of the city and use public transportation to bring them close to their jobs. If this employee parking is moved east of the I-405 it would have three benefits: 1] reduce downtown parking requirements; 2] reduce downtown traffic; and 3] reduce the congestion on the east-west boulevards running under the I-405. Limiting parking benefits developers who don’t want to pay the high price of parking spaces. But does it really make Santa Monica a more livable city? For those who must drive for whatever reason, if they can’t park adequately close to their destination, they always have the option of spending money elsewhere, and I don’t see how that helps the city of Santa Monica or its retailers.

  3. Maybe she is unable to walk that far?

    Maybe she is unwilling to walk back at night?

    You attack her motive for wanting to be able to use her city streets. Good for you. Real green he-men.

    You ignore the pollution impact of the artificially-created traffic jams.

    You ignore the cumulative stupidity of the City of Samo with its simultaneous street closures, permanent and temporary.

    You ignore the fact that when the traffic sphincter that is Santa Monica tightens … the entire L.A. system constipates.  That traffic jam backed up the westbound 10 to downtown LA, and also corked up the 405 south thru the pass and north out of LAX.

    You cannot comprehend that people get injured as a direct and foreseeable consequence of Santa Monica obstructing traffic.

    You expect the rest of California to provide you with food, deliveries, and garbage haul-away, when your city  corks up the western county.

    You Santa Monicans are making your own city unlivable.  Good luck with your bike lanes.  You should extend them to the San Joaquin valley, so the rickshaws can deliver your organic kale, and haul away your trash.

  4. Google maps directions: Santa Monica Pier to Santa Monica Library
    5 Minutes via Bike
    14 Minutes on foot.

  5. I think I’ve read through this three times in shocked disgust. The fact that someone would drive one mile on a Saturday afternoon when they have the option of walking through one of the most pedestrian-friendly parts of Los Angeles is completely ridiculous. But to then have the gall to complain about gridlock they (and a bunch of their neighbors) contributed to? Cry me a river.

    I live in Santa Monica as well, also about a mile from downtown, and I’ve never had an issue with either traffic or parking when I go there. Because I walk or ride my bike. The city has a great network of bike lanes and well-maintained and pleasant sidewalks and streets, and I feel lucky to live here and have so many options for getting around. The Expo Line will be one more, and if traffic remains as terrible as you say, I’m sure others will seek to avoid it by arriving here via other means.

  6. You drove your car for a trip that’s less than two miles long, and the city of Santa Monica is the problem? You could’ve walked there in less than half an hour. Biked there in less than 10 minutes. You’re not stuck in traffic, you are traffic.

  7. Hey, I remember when traffic in Santa Monica was non-existent! Yeah – back when it was Skid Row West and the place was over run with crack cocaine addicts and the cast offs from the declining aerospace industry.

    If only we could get back to those glory days of fast car driving in Santa Monica! 

  8. Yes. The gridlock has been horrific for years and has now reached new heights with the Expo terminal station construction.
    Santa Monica Blvd’s road-diet by the bus lane west of Lincoln was the 1st contributor. This made driving to downtown a moot subject for me. It adds nearly 20 minutes to the usual 3-minute, ½ mile ride.
    Broadway’s not much better. Forget Colorado for the next 2 years…
    Santa Monica has become a world-class destination, thanks to the newly-gentrified mall. Everyone in the county wants to go there!
    Will Expo make a difference?
    Only if we learn to be like other world-class cities around the world, where their population actually walks and uses their transit systems!

  9. Huh, I just kept reading and was waiting for the punchline. I thought it would something along the lines that “as long as there are idiots who will drive to 7th Street from the Pier, there will always be traffic”.

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