Ryan McDonald

Pretty, costly crosswalks for downtown Hermosa Beach

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A rendering of the $285,000 crosswalk designs approved by council for five downtown Hermosa Avenue intersections.

by Ryan McDonald

The Hermosa Beach City Council approved plans for five new downtown crosswalks last week, including a sand-swept design for the central intersection of Pier and Hermosa avenues, overcoming concerns about projected costs coming in far higher than originally anticipated.

The council voted 4-1 to approve a roughly $285,000 contract for upgrades to the Hermosa Avenue crosswalks at Pier, as well as 10th, 11th, 13th, and 14th streets. The work is expected to start in mid-March and last approximately two weeks.

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New crosswalk designs were added on to the Hermosa Avenue repaving project, which is now approaching the town’s northern border, by the council in May of last year. Then at a June meeting, after an extensive discussion that challenged the council members with questions of aesthetic judgment, the council chose the “Bright Winds of Change” pattern, which would incorporate the city’s sunburst logo with an offset “hB” surrounded by sand-colored rays of light.

Glen Kau, the city’s public works director at the time, told the council that the decorative crosswalk design would cost about $200,000. The city had already awarded the contract for the broader Hermosa Avenue paving project to All-American Asphalt, and intended that the company would perform the special design work as well.

But in November 2018, All-American returned with an estimate of about $360,000 for the crosswalk work, which a subcontractor would perform. The council blanched at the higher cost, and asked that the downtown intersections project be put out for a separate, competitive bid. The bid selected last week, of $284,562, was the lowest reply the council received; two others exceeded $400,000.

The decision facing the council over the crosswalk exposed the first public sign of displeasure with Kau, whose departure was announced, without explanation, by City Manager Suja Lowenthal at a Jan. 22 council meeting. Kau, who joined the city in October 2017, was present at a Public Works Commission meeting the week before his exit, and one commissioner said that there were no obvious issues.

At last week’s meeting, council members said they were disappointed about having approved a design with imperfect cost information.

“I will remind my colleagues that we were presented with that sunburst design by our previous public works director who thought it was going to be half the price or maybe even less than that. I think the sticker shock caught some of us by surprise,” said Mayor Stacey Armato.

Armato ultimately proved the lone no vote in a 4-1 decision to award the contract for the council’s chosen design, saying she would have preferred to send possible design alternatives out to bid in an attempt to save money. Other councilmembers, however, were swayed by what staff described as looming deadlines to spend the funds that would be used.

“It’s true that we are emotionally invested. It is a high-ticket item…[but] there is value in proceeding and meeting this deadline,” said Nico de Anda-Scaia, assistant to the City Manager.

The project will be paid for with money from Measure R, a countywide sales tax increase voters passed in 2008 for transportation projects. Along with the new design, the intersections will install new sensors in the left hand turn lane, to better manage the flow of traffic, and will have a number of features that will increase pedestrian safety. Particularly at the Pier and Hermosa intersection, visitors to the downtown are often confused by the sequencing of lights and all-way walk signals.

According to a staff report, many of these Measure R funds must be expended by the close of the 2018-19 fiscal year, which ends June 30.

The crosswalk will be made of a special type of plastic that stands up better to the repeated pressure of car wheels. While paint on crosswalks must be reapplied every three to four years, the plastic will last about 10 years, said Environmental Analyst Leeanne Singleton.

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