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How the city of Santa Monica has helped create safer open spaces

SANTA MONICA, CA:   A view of Third Street Promenade where the Santa Monica Farmer's Market is held.
SANTA MONICA, CA: A view of Third Street Promenade where the Santa Monica Farmer's Market is held.
Jason Merritt/Getty Images for Vans

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Residents and authorities of Nice, France are still trying to process what happened and why. But eventually, they will also have to think about how to rebuild that promenade. 

Security will no doubt, be top of mind. That was also the goal for the city of Santa Monica.

On July 16th of 2003, an elderly man drove through a road closure sign and into the busy Farmer's Market held at Santa Moncia's Third Street Promenade. 10 people were killed, another 63 were injured.

For more on how Santa Monica rebuilt after that tragedy, we turned to Farmer's Market Supervisor for the City of Santa Monica, Laura Avery.

Interview Highlights

What happened at the Farmer's Market on that day?

"The farmer's market was 15 minutes from closing, so, fortunately, the streets were not as crowded as they normally were during peak hours and what happened was an elderly man who had been at the post office at 5th street, turned westbound on Arizona Ave and according to all the investigation reports there was a red light at Arizona and Fourth he...instead of hitting the break, he hit the gas...right through the barricade, all the way through the market and then he stopped when he got to the end of the market, east of Ocean ave."

When and how did the city of Santa Monica start to think about how to respond on an infrastructure level to what had happened?

"Well, we'd always had a traffic control plan in place. We had 'road closed' ahead signs and we had the typical folding barricades in the street. After this happened, when we realized someone could drive through, immediately what happened was police vehicles were placed at all the entrances of the streets...while the city then looked at putting up some sort of permanent – it's called a vehicle arresting barricade– to put in place. But they wanted to find a non-lethal vehicle arresting barricade..not a fixed post, that if someone crashed into it, they would also be killed...

After a couple years of research, they found a company that builds a device called a dragnet and what that is, it's sort of like a stainless steel tennis court net that is attached to a steel cable that is anchored into the ground – four-foot deep ballards that are sunk into the ground. Similar to what they use on aircraft carriers to catch the tail of a plane that's landing. To stop a rapidly moving vehicle in a very short amount of space."

If you were to advise other places around the world, what advice would you give them between striking that balance between safety and openness?

"We have been asked by several cities and other organizations to provide them with a copy of our traffic control plan. I think a lot of people look at our traffic control plan as being as state of the art as there is, if there is one today. So, I mean I think it's just a matter of stopping a vehicle without hurting either the person who's driving or having the actual barrier you put up hurt somebody else. So, I believe that we are sort of a model that other communities and farmer's markets can look at and we have a very high expectation that we're going to be safe inside the market. We're talking about an average driver, this is not a barricade that's going to stop a semi-truck that's going 75 mph."

To hear the full segment, click the blue play button above. 

Answers have been edited for clarity.