City staff seem obsessed with doing something to the Ocean Boulevard sidewalk. But the purpose of the project has become blurred, if not entirely lost.
It all began July 22, 2015 when Councilmembers Bailey and Downey each asked the council to consider a $100,000 study for a “Multi-Use” path along the beach for pedestrians and bicycles. At first the idea was approved, but after the “Save our Beach” uprising the concept was defunded.
When Bailey ran for mayor in October 2016, he said he would like to consider reconfiguring the Ocean Boulevard sidewalk stating “While the public was opposed to a concrete path on the beach, I do believe the public is supportive of improving the conditions of the existing boardwalk.”
In 2018 the Active Transportation Master Plan was approved which called for improvements for pedestrians and cyclists on Ocean Boulevard (page 84). But it never suggested widening the sidewalk.
Then on May 21, 2019 an agenda item came to council recommending one of four different options for widening the sidewalk. They ranged from Street Furniture Relocation ($350K) to Sidewalk Widening over Seawall ($5.6M).
Councilmember Heinze asked what was wrong with the sidewalk. City engineer, Ed Walton, said, “In the summer, it’s very crowded; combine that with surreys and bicycles, it is not a very comfortable environment.” Mayor Bailey added that “previous councils have identified enhancing the pedestrian and bicycling environment of the Ocean Boulevard sidewalk for several years now,” and that this is a potential alternative to the “infamous path on the beach.”
The various plans were presented in more detail on Dec. 1, 2020. Choosing the mid-priced option, the council voted to authorize advertising for bids to widen the sidewalk and narrow the street by two feet ($1.3M). Sandke, Heinze, and Benzian voted AYE. Donovan voted NO as he felt that was not a good solution and Bailey voted NO as he preferred widening of the sidewalk by taking from the ocean side rocks to provide a “world-class amenity.”
The resulting plan is a wider sidewalk that will be enticing to cyclists, but too narrow to safely accommodate both bicycles and pedestrians. The street will become dangerous for bicycles, more congested for motorists, and more hazardous for beach goers exiting to the street.
Council should reconsider this plan.