At a press conference last Tuesday Friends of Sunset Park (FOSP) officials stated that they were surprised about some of the results they received from a 35-question survey they recently conducted.
The goal of the survey, as stated in a letter from FOSP President Zina Josephs to the City’s Planning Commission, was to ensure that the neighborhood “was well represented in the feedback being provided in conjunction” with the City’s update of the land use and circulation elements in the City’s General Plan.
The land use element dictates the distribution of different types of buildings (housing, business, industry, open space, etc.), while the circulation element sets out the location of existing and proposed roads, highways and other modes of transportation.
FOSP mailed the survey to approximately 600 households, and distributed flyers to 7,000 households as well.
There were 324 responses. In addition, the survey generated 85 new members and FOSP officials were surprised that many of them are renters.
At the press conference, Josephs said that the “City questionnaire [and update workshops] did not generate the type of response [we got] and it doesn’t generate the type of information we want to express.”
Given that, FOSP Vice-President Tom Cleys said the organization felt it was necessary “to make up our own questions.”
For one thing, he said, FOSP thought the questions “needed to be more direct” than the City’s “indirect” queries, approach, and, for another, it included questions related specifically to the Sunset Park neighborhood.
The Executive Summary of the survey results states in general the residents “are looking for the City and its leaders to begin paying more attention to the concerns of its citizens. The focus needs to be less on the City’s image as an influential business center within the Los Angeles Basin and more on it as a community of residents. The residents want you to refocus your energies on the small-town atmosphere that we were known for years ago reminiscent of Santa Monica’s days as a beach community. Yes, we want to be an urban community that makes a difference in Southern California and the country but we do not want to give in to the pressures of growth and an expanding population and become like everywhere else in Southern California and the nation. We want a Santa Monica that is unique because it has stood against these pressures and not turned into yet another indistinguishable gentrified community on the sea.”
The report also notes that the two largest issues “in Sunset Park involve … the airport and the college. Most wanted Santa Monica Airport closed down and redeveloped into parks and open space, mixed use development, and a lesser number of respondents in housing and schools. However, a substantial number of people are willing to continue to cohabitate with the airport as long as the jet traffic is either eliminated or controlled to our satisfaction.”
Seventy-seven percent of those who responded “would support an enrollment cap at the college, and 81% of the respondents do not want the college given access to Airport Avenue for its Bundy Campus.”
Another major Sunset Park issue is traffic.
To the surprise of FOSP officials, 59 percent of the respondents “support the traffic calming measures that the City has implemented.” A larger majority, 76%, supports “a city-funded traffic plan focused on reducing cut-through traffic in Sunset Park,” which, Josephs said, reflects residents’ reaction to “growing traffic congestion of the east end of Sunset Park.”
Cleys suggested that much of the congestion was related to developments “coming to fruition,” but he did not expect Sunset Park residents to feel that “traffic is worse in downtown Santa Monica than Sunset Park.”
46 percent of the respondents “want the old industrial core of the city to be down-zoned,” and 85 percent of the respondents believed that voter approval should be required for large new developments, “if the City bureaucracy remains unresponsive to community concerns.”
Responding to questions about crime and safety in the city, “Residents generally felt safe although noticeably less so at night (56 percent).”
Respondents also expressed interest in creating “a town center of sorts in Sunset Park that is currently lacking [on Ocean Park Boulevard]…akin to Main Street in Ocean Park or Montana Avenue in the northern portion of the City.”
In addition, 72 percent of those who responded favored replacing the current street trees with trees with larger canopies.
Also garnering strong support, 86 percent, was the Exposition light rail system, but only 53 percent supported “a higher density development near the rail line.”
When questioned about the future of downtown, “the greatest support … [surprisingly] was for more performing arts venues e.g. live theatre, music and dance.”
Respondents also wanted more resident-serving retail in downtown and continued growth of the tourist industry. 50 percent were open to “modest growth in residential development” in downtown Santa Monica but 86% “were against the original proposal for the redevelopment of Santa Monica Place.”
Of concern to 73 percent of the respondents was homeless ness to the surprise of FOSP member Loraine Sanchez. She was taken aback by “how vehemently upset Sunset Park residents were about the homeless intrusion into their lives.”
At the conclusion of the press conference, Cleys noted that “part of the purpose of the survey in addition to asking questions was to educate because so many residents don’t know what’s going on.” The survey results were submitted to the City Council, the Planning Commission, the City Manager and to other officials in the City’s Planning and Community Development Department. FOSP is also posting summary-level results on-line at www.friendsofsunsetpark.org.