The new traffic lanes on Montana Avenue were just hours old when residents went before the Santa Monica Planning Commission to speak out against the re-striping.
Opponents warned that narrowing the flow of traffic on Montana Avenue from two lanes to one in each direction would cause congestion. Supporters of the idea said it was the best way to discourage speeding.
The change, approved for a six-month test period by the Santa Monica City Council last year, is part of an overall plan to make Montana Avenue’s 10-block shopping stretch more pedestrian-friendly. The re-striping of traffic lanes between 7th and 20th streets was completed Wednesday.
“The effects of the re-striping is an ongoing, screaming disaster,” said Norman Peterson, one of 31 neighbors and merchants addressing the commission Wednesday night. He said he counted a 19-car backup when a motorist blocked traffic while trying to parallel park.
Michael Cieply, a resident and area merchant, called the re-striping “truly a disaster.”
Other residents, however, said the re-striping was the first step in making the street more attractive, increasing pedestrian safety and generating more walk-in business for Montana Avenue shops and restaurants.
“This is progress in its finest sense,” said Dolores Press, a member of the Wilshire/Montana Neighborhood Coalition.
The group supports plans to complement the re-striping with new crosswalks, decorative sidewalk paving, landscaped medians and “chokers” to add sidewalk space at intersections while limiting right-hand turns.
The commission reviewed the proposed streetscape plan Wednesday, but members will not vote on the design until the impact of the street re-striping is assessed this summer.