In July 2003, a motorist drove through barricades at the Santa Monica Farmers Market, striking and killing 10 pedestrians and injuring 63 others. The tragedy resulted in $21 million in city payouts from civil lawsuits after the National Transportation Safety Board determined that the crash could have been prevented with a more rigid barrier system.
The infamous Santa Monica incident and other crashes at crowded festivals and farmers markets nationwide in recent years led the San Luis Obispo City Council to approve nearly $1.3 million last week for a security system to protect crowds at its weekly Farmers Markets.
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Those will include a combination of manual, removable bollards (a short, sturdy posts used to divert traffic from the road) and automatic, retractable bollards at the entrances of Mission Plaza and nine street entrances to the Farmers Market.
The retractable bollards would rise up from the street, while the manual posts would be installed each week by city staff.
“We know it’s going to be a rather difficult project because anytime you have to do any digging downtown there’s always a higher incidence of unforeseen underground conflicts, with utility lines, communication lines, etc.” said Daryl Grisby, the city’s public works director. “We’ll have to proceed expeditiously while keeping in mind we’ll have to stay within our budget with the goal of protecting those critical infrastructures.”
The council unanimously approved the money for the security plan, which will come from the city’s General Fund.
“There has been growing concerns regarding Farmers Market security in the wake of incidents at public gatherings around the country and abroad that have resulted in serious injuries and deaths,” a staff report noted.
The recommendation was to “upgrade protection for the approaches to the Farmers event” to improve barrier between cars and attendees.
Bollards will be placed on Higuera, Broad, Garden, Chorro, Morro and Monterey streets where those attending the Farmers Market enter and gather.
In addition to the Santa Monica incident, recent deadly crashes have included a 2014 wreck at a music festival in Austin, where a motorist drove through barricades, killing four pedestrians and injuring 21 others. A 2013 crash took place at the Venice Beach oceanfront, where a motorist drove around barricades and killed one pedestrian and injured 11 others. At the Hawthorne Farmers Market in New Jersey, a driver killed one person and injured two others after driving through barricades.
The city is paying for the bollards from saved-up funds it collected in the 2016-17 fiscal year amounting to $5.5 million. The city will spend $1.3 million on the security measures for the Farmers Market and the additional $4.2 million toward its Pension Trust Fund.
The city faces major budget shortfalls because of pension costs and is seeking to correct imbalances through Fiscal Health Response Plan.
The removable bollards will require the city to use staff resources, plan some street closures further in advance of Farmers Market hours, and pay for a new vehicle to facilitate the work. Construction is expected to be completed within a year, but the timing remains uncertain.
“The total extent of public and private utility conflicts with bollard foundations is unknown at this time,” the report noted. “There is potential for the time frame and cost to escalate significantly. After survey work is completed, the project schedule and cost estimates will be updated.”