The Pacific Palisade Democratic Club at its May 2 meeting voted unanimously to support the concept of a pedestrian bridge from the base of George Wolfberg Park to Will Rogers State Beach Parking lot as “an expression of the matter of equity. This is in keeping with the vision of the park as a regional facility serving the greater City of Los Angeles.”
Potrero Canyon was acquired by the City in 1964 through eminent domain. After homes started falling into the Canyon, the City announced a plan in 1984 to install a drain and create a city park.
Thirty-eight years later, the park opened in December 2022 and was renamed George Wolfberg Park at Potrero Canyon. The plan was for a riparian park, which started at the Palisades Recreation Center at Frontera, extended through the canyon and would provide residents with access to Will Rogers State Beach.
The Coastal Commission approved the plan, with additional parking at the Palisades Recreation Center, and the idea the remainder of required parking could be in Will Rogers State Beach. A bathroom at the base of the park would not be needed because of bathrooms at the beach.
A pedestrian bridge was proposed for connecting the park to the Will Rogers lot. Not only would that discourage pedestrians from running across six lanes of traffic at Pacific Coast Highway, but people living in Pacific Palisades could walk down the Wolfberg Park, cross and walk to the beach. A bridge would also mean that traffic on PCH would not be affected by a pedestrian crossing and light.
Some residents were upset that nonresidents might use the pedestrian bridge. They called the proposed bridge to Wolfberg Park the “homeless highway.” They feared homeless would walk across the bridge, up into the park and into the Village. They also did not want out-of-area families who might be at the beach for the day to walk up to the Rec Center.
To satisfy those residents, a lateral trail was proposed. People would exit Wolfberg Park at the base of Potrero Canyon and then walk more than a half a mile to Temescal Canyon Road, cross two cross walks at PCH to get to the beach.
Now both options, a pedestrian bridge and a lateral trail are being simultaneously funded and planned.
The lateral trail, which is on the Caltrans right of way, has received $1.15 million from U. S. Representative Ted Lieu’s office. The L.A. City Bureau of Engineering requested $3.4 million for the trail from the city (but downgraded that amount, when it learned of the federal funding).
In the meantime, a portion of the hillside above the proposed lateral trail slid in April after the heavy rains. The area above the slide, where Friends Street intersects Via de las Olas, is taped off.
How safe will a lateral trail be because of slides? That question will need to be answered.
Here’s the steps outlined for a lateral trail: 1) order of design from Bureau of Engineering; 2) an encroachment permit has to be received from Caltrans; 3) environmental and design phase, which is projected to last two years and 4) construction, which could take a year.
The earliest a lateral trail will be open, if there are no snafus, is 2027. The cost to build a trail will probably run more than $3 million. The trail does not stop people from running across PCH, which is already a problem with several fatalities recorded. Even with a fence separating the highway from the trail, it may not be enough to deter jaywalkers.
The cost for the bridge was initially projected at more than $11 million and that amount of money has been secured through State Senator Ben Allen’s office. The final total could be far higher. The City has already received money from the state for the bridge and procured the $178,000 needed to begin a feasibility study.
The Bureau of Engineering has initiated a Project Initiation Document (PID), which takes a year to a year and a half to complete. The PID conducts a geotechnical study for the position of the bridge, basic design and a community outreach campaign.
In April, the City put out a bid for a consultant to help with the PID. Once a consultant is approved by the City, then the project will go into a predesign phase.
Then, BOE and Caltrans will work on an agreement so the Project Study Report Project Development Support can start. That is projected to take two years.
Once that is done, the environmental and design phase will take two years. The construction phase is projected at two years.
Currently the completion of the pedestrian bridge is anticipated in the year 2029 or 2030, if there are no unforeseen difficulties.
Former Pacific Palisades Community Council President and a long-time member of the Potrero Park committee David Card shared the Trail Uses and Facility document that was sent to the City in 2008.
The top concern listed under proposals was “Bridge for Beach Access: The Committee’s top priority is to ensure a safe crossing of Pacific Coast Highway and to prevent further pedestrian deaths. To achieve this goal, a majority of Committee members propose that a pedestrian over-crossing (bridge) be built over PCH’s six (6) lanes of high-speed traffic: to allow safe, direct and unimpeded access to the beach, canyon and village for walkers, runners and bicyclists and to avoid interfering with the flow of traffic on PCH.”
Card wrote in a May 1, 2023 letter to Senator Ben Allen:
A bridge will be the “Most direct and safe crossing of PCH and beach access for walkers, runners and bicyclists and the shortest access route to the beach, beach
parking and restrooms. Most of the walkers and bicyclers will be residents in the
village going to the beach. We will see the beach and want a direct route to get there, not a stop light half a mile up the coast.”
He pointed out that when people reach the bottom of Potrero Canyon, “The view of the beach is too tempting for some people not to dash across PCH right there.”
Card also said the access to the parking lot and the bathrooms at Will Rogers will mean that money will not need to be raised to build a parking lot and bathrooms at the bottom of Potrero, which might be required by the Coastal Commission.
“Homeless are already in the bluffs overlooking the beach and, in the village, … However, building an unnecessary new restroom [at the mouth of the canyon] would attract more homeless people and be a security and maintenance burden,” Card wrote.
More importantly, he said that an ADA ramp on both ends of the bridge will satisfy the access requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Card also worries about the instability of the bluff and the safety of people using a lateral trail. “There is a risk of bluff landslides, notorious along that Via de las Olas bluff (1958 “Killer Slide” and many others).” He also feels that the trail won’t be as safe as a bridge because of the temptation to jaywalk across PCH.
(Editor’s note: It seems that money from two costly projects, which were both developed to help people cross to Will Rogers State Beach should be consolidated. Designing and constructing two projects for the same purpose seems to be a waste of taxpayer dollars. After seeing the recent slide on the bluffs and hearing the pedestrian ADA argument and not having to raise money from taxpayers to build extra restrooms or parking, CTN feels money and design should go strictly for the bridge. CTN has reported several pedestrian deaths in that stretch of PCH and a bridge may save lives. A gate could be placed at both entrances and locked at night, keeping people out of the canyon after hours.)