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Manhattan Beach Approves Rainbow Crosswalk at the Strand

Oct 20, 2021 11:52AM ● By Jeanne Fratello

The location for the crosswalk at Manhattan Beach Blvd. and the Strand (left); and sample images of rainbow crosswalks (right).

The Manhattan Beach City Council has voted, 5-0, to create a rainbow crosswalk on Manhattan Beach Blvd. at the Strand. Councilmembers directed staff to investigate a location for creating a second rainbow walkway within Polliwog Park.

The agreement came after spirited discussion and public comment on the rainbow crosswalk issue. After hearing concerns about potential safety issues with a brightly decorated crosswalk on a busy street, councilmembers agreed to move the rainbow crosswalk to the Strand location, where there is heavy pedestrian traffic but less vehicular traffic.

Traffic Concerns Result in Change of Plans

As proposed by the city's Cultural Arts Commission, the crosswalk would have been located at Manhattan Beach Blvd. and Peck Ave., near Polliwog Park and Manhattan Beach Middle School. But several commenters and councilmembers expressed concerns about a potentially distracting crosswalk on a busy boulevard.

"We’ve invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants on safety for walking to school," said Councilmember Joe Franklin. "The majority of users of the crosswalk will be children gong to and from middle school. [A rainbow crosswalk] could introduce an unsafe distraction for children getting across the street."

"Combining artwork with children and traffic is inherently not a good idea," Franklin noted.

"If the goal is to get noticed, it should be where people should see it," added Councilmember Richard Montgomery, who urged the council to consider a different location. "Not where cars are zipping past."

Mayor Pro Tem Steve Napolitano introduced the Strand location as an alternative as a visible area with a high degree of foot traffic that would address concerns about safety for students and children.

"There's a constant parade of people, and you can see it from far up on the hill," said Napolitano. "I appreciate wanting to have it at school where the kids are, but that’s seasonal...[On the Strand], it would make it a high-impact area without a lot of safety issues."

Councilmember Suzanne Hadley suggested turning one of the walkways at Polliwog Park into a rainbow walkway. Councilmembers agreed to turn the idea over to staff to hear suggestions on how that could be implemented.

Franklin also made emotional remarks suggesting that the city consider supporting the LGBTQ population in some form other than a rainbow crosswalk. He mentioned ideas such as an art therapy program, a designated room for support groups to meet, or window decals for businesses with artwork that indicates that all are welcome. Franklin said that he had a beloved brother who had felt "anguish and pain" because of the "stigma" of being different. "That was a different time," added Franklin. "But he would have benefited greatly from such services in his earlier years."

Cost of Crosswalk Source Of Concern

The original proposal submitted by the Cultural Arts Commission was to authorize up to $80,000 for the project, based on estimates of $10 to $25 per square foot for 3200 square feet of crosswalk, depending on materials used.

Various installation options include paint, thermoplastic, and tile; with paint being the least expensive and tile being the most expensive.

Hearing concerns about the cost estimate for the original plan (up to $80,000), councilmembers agreed to bring the crosswalk issue back to council if the installation at either location (Strand location or Polliwog park pathway location) would cost more than $20,000.

Manhattan Beach Cultural Arts Manager Eilen Stewart noted that the crosswalk installation at the originally proposed location (at Manhattan Beach Blvd. and Peck Ave.) would have had some cost savings built in, because that intersection was already slated to be redone in 2022/23. When the city installs it at a different location (at the Strand), the labor and street closure costs will need to be added, she said.

However, that area is a single crosswalk that would have fewer square feet than the Peck location.

Funding for the project - as with all public art projects in Manhattan Beach - would come from the Public Art Trust Fund, established through a dedicated 1% fee charged to developers that does not impact the general fund.

On other Public Art Trust Fund issues, the council also voted: 

  • 3-2, with Franklin and Napolitano as "no" votes, to spend $40,000 to rehabilitate the John Van Hammersveld mural that circles around the top of the Manhattan Arts Center;

  • 3-2, with Hadley and Mayor Hildy Stern as "no" votes, to install a (scaled-down version of a) digital wall to be installed at City Hall.

  • To send the idea of a permanent Polliwog Park stage and pavilion back to staff to come back with a more fleshed-out proposal with potential options.

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