Longfellow Street, a short residential street in Santa Monica’s Borderline neighborhood, connects the neighborhood retail corridor with Ozone Park. The $1.6 million Borderline Neighborhood Shared Streets project transformed the formerly narrow and unappealing Longfellow Street into a landscaped shared space for pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists, creating people-oriented community space.
Longfellow Street is a four block long residential street that runs for 446 feet from Marine Street to Ozone Street through Santa Monica’s Borderline neighborhood. At 40 feet wide and paved from property line to property line, Longfellow Street was too narrow to fit both sidewalks and parallel parking for adjacent apartments. Trees and utilities prevented wheelchair accessibility. Motorists often parked such that vehicles blocked driveways and obstructed views. With poor lighting and limited foot traffic, the street suffered crime, graffiti, dumping, and property damage. As a result, residents felt unsafe walking on the street behind their homes.
In 2006, the Borderline Neighborhood Group brought their concerns to City Council and the Planning Commission, seeking a redesign that would improve quality of life, beautify the street, reduce crime, and limit the stormwater runoff carrying pollutants into the Pacific Ocean. In October 2006, City Council approved a contract for a feasibility study. A lengthy community visioning process included a public notification program to raise awareness about the project, as well as public workshops to solicit ideas and concerns, attended by 45 community members.
The project designers produced three concepts for review by City staff and the community. One concept, which used alternating diagonal parking to create a chicane effect, was ruled infeasible because it compromised emergency vehicle access. Of the remaining two concepts, the community strongly supported a shared street rather than one with a six-foot wide dedicated pedestrian walkway, which would have required relocating utility poles. In 2008, the city allocated funding for streetscape improvements, and construction began in 2011. Six years after initial proposals, the Longfellow Sustainable Living Street was unveiled in March 2012.
At 40 feet wide, Longfellow Street’s extremely narrow right-of-way posed significant design challenges. In order to provide space for all roadway users, the new design merged the pedestrian and motorist realms in a shared space. The 14-foot wide shared carriageway, which was resurfaced with new asphalt, functions as a yield street. The entrance to the street is indicated with a detectable warning strip of truncated dome pavers, and integral colored concrete pavers create an aesthetic gateway to the neighborhood and encourage slower vehicle travel. On either side of the street, eight-foot wide parking spaces are paved using colored concrete permeable unit pavers with ½-inch joints, and are bordered with a rollable curb measuring 8 inches wide and ½ inch tall. Five-foot wide landscaped planters border the street as well, calming traffic and filtering stormwater. Emergency vehicles, garbage trucks, and street sweepers are still able to use the shared street.
At the time of the Borderline project’s design and construction, the U.S. Access Board did not have clear standards for shared streets. Therefore, project managers involved the U.S. Access Board in the concept and design development to ensure the organization’s support. Based on the Access Board’s feedback, the Borderline neighborhood street redesigns included a rollable curb indicating parking spaces, truncated dome pavers indicating the street’s entrance, and smooth asphalt paving in the shared street space.
New trees and native, drought-resistant plants absorb stormwater, and bioswales capture and filter the runoff that previously polluted the Pacific Ocean. Furthermore, this landscaping beautifies the street, creating an inviting living space for residents. Solar-powered LED lighting is designed to be dimmable, programmable, dark-sky compliant, and low maintenance. The pedestrian scale lighting improves public safety, and with more people comfortable walking and socializing on the street, it is no longer a magnet for crime. The people-oriented design fosters a stronger sense of community in the neighborhood, and the incorporation of public art showcases Longfellow Street’s uniqueness