Last Thursday evening, the City of Santa Monica and Santa Monica High School held a forum that showcased projects and presentations by Santa Monica students who took part in the City Planning Department’s “Shape the Future 2025” program to update the land use and circulation elements of 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 projects and proposed roads, highways and other modes of transportation. The General Plan was last updated in 1984. The key themes identified by the students were summarized in a department report “Initial Outreach, Assessment, and Emerging Themes,” which was given to the City Council last night. It included easy access to retail, school and activities; walkable and bicycle-friendly streets, more affordable housing, location of public parks near housing that lacks private open space, more municipal swimming pools and indoor activity centers such as basketball gyms and youth centers, and beach shuttles to transport young people from their neighborhoods to the beach. The students also suggested that the City encourage more walking and biking and more sustainable ways to reduce pollution of all kinds, especially storm runoff and sewage overflow that foul beaches and the ocean. Students also asked that “safety from crime” be a key factor in planning neighborhoods; that “houses [have] front yards and porches and quiet tree lined streets to help neighbors meet as they walk to school, parks or shops,” and said they would like to see “security gates and alarms and police and fire stations in each neighborhood.” Two hundred students from nine schools participated in the youth planning project. Eight of nine are part of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) and the ninth, Crossroads Middle School, is a private school in Santa Monica. The eight participating District schools are Edison, Franklin and McKinley Elementary Schools, the Santa Monica Alternative School House (SMASH), Lincoln Middle School, Olympic and Santa Monica High Schools. In addition, 300 students who are in City or School District youth programs, such as the PAL Youth Activities League and CREST, participated. A “Youth Planning Toolkit” was developed by the City Planning department in partnership with the School District to be used as a curriculum resource and guide to participation activities. The student projects developed with the “toolkit” included reports, drawings, maps and models.
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