Recently, a new plan to build a narrow two-lane bike path was proposed for the area along long beach’s bluff. The new plan flies in the face of a popular proposal for a bike path that is a dozen years old that would have built a wider bicycle path and a network of parks. The new proposal is both more modest, and less popular than the original and is referred to in the press as a “two-lane highway.”
In 2002, Long Beach took a cue from other beach cities—specifically Santa Monica and Huntington Beach—in developing an Art Master Plan for its coastline. With a $200K price tag, the Department of Parks, Recreation & Marine reached out to artists and designers to develop a beach path that superseded what are commonly called “two-lane highway” paths, i.e. minimal concrete paths with little conceptual or aesthetic value.
“We are talking about adding value: making our beach as attractive and enjoyable as possible.”
Following the release of a RFP for artists to offer their proposals, Long Beach artists Craig Cree Stone and Terry Braunstein scored with their plan: mimicking the California coastline, the proposed pathway meandered through indigenous vegetation while incorporating mini-parks along the path in the shape of the Channel Islands. The plan was developed with Tetra-tech engineering firm, Steven Ormenyi landscape architects, and the Department of Public Works.
Following the economic collapse that sent municipalities across the country into a series of massive budget cuts, the plan was put on hold.
“The recommendation is to create a meandering path in conformance with the Conceptual Art Master Plan of 2004, and to not approve the current ‘two-lane highway’ pedestrian path proposal,” Stone said. “At this point, all that exists are lines on a piece of paper, but whatever is built will be there for years to come. While the City has already spent a great deal of money on both of these plans, it is in all of our best interests to create the most attractive path possible.”
It is unclear what happened to the Conceptual Art Master Plan over the last dozen years. Tomorrow night the City Council will vote on a proposal to approve the “two-lane highway.” While the creation of a new bike path is usually a cause for celebration, in this case if feels to some a lost opportunity.
Stone and Braunstein, however, have made it clear that they will appear at the Council meeting in an attempt to defend the development from eroding into blandness and Braunstein calls “an uninspired 35-year-old bike path.”
“This kind of collaborative conceptual design process, where artists are integrated from the beginning is what we are talking about here,” Braunstein said in an opinion piece. “We are talking about adding value: making our beach as attractive and enjoyable as possible… This plan was designed to add value—the opposite of being seen as a simplistic highway. This design creates a poetic connection between the real beach walkway and the imagined coast of Southern California.”
The City Council will vote on the matter tomorrow evening.