As a member of the Santa Monica City Council and an architect, I am compelled to respond to the article by Times staff writer Martha Groves (Should This Place Be the Next Big Thing? Tuesday, July 19. 2005).
Let me begin by complementing Ms. Groves on presenting a helpful and generally accurate overview of the Santa Monica Place community-outreach process, now in its seventh month — a process we on the City Council voted unanimously to initiate.
As Ms. Groves herself makes clear in citing the statistics, this is an extraordinary process: 46,000 written invitations encouraging residents to participate in one of four (4) community design workshops, each workshop attended by city staff and facilitated by Moore, Iacofano, Goltsman, Inc. (MIG), one of America’s foremost design/workshop firms.
More than 400 residents showed up to participate; another 2,000+ registered their preferences by mail; and, still another 500 expressed their views on revitalizing Santa Monica Place by responding to a professional public-opinion survey. Not mentioned in the article were ten additional meetings held with key business and civic organizations representing constituencies and interests throughout Santa Monica.
No approach to redevelopment in my memory has received quite so extended and thorough a public vetting as the proposed revitalization of Santa Monica Place. And this is just the beginning of the public review and discussion.
I found it strange, therefore, that Ms. Groves constrained her coverage of the public workshops to the reactions of a single participant who seems pretty clearly to have misunderstood what was going on.
Within the context of heeding a few real-world constraints (e.g., the physical area and geometry of the site and certain legal restrictions) the design groups were free to include as much or as little density, or green space, or retail, or other mixes of uses as each group liked.
To my knowledge, no one was pressured to add density. Indeed, the only strong encouragement or pressure received was to free everyone’s mind of constraints and be as creative as could be. (I would encourage your readers to visit www.reimagine-SantaMonicaPlace.com to see the variety of design concepts and densities that emerged from the workshops.)
Finally, I am likewise puzzled by Ms. Groves’ interview of one of Santa Monica’s planning commissioners, whom she quotes as saying “There is no confidence that the report that comes out will be a real reflection of what the city wants.”
On the contrary, the MIG report reflects a broad range of wants including those expressed by city staff, the City Council, the Planning Commission, Macerich Company and the aforementioned roughly 3,000 residents of Santa Monica.
The various development approaches that emerged from the process are presently being studied by financial experts who will identify among them a handful of specific project alternatives judged to be physically and economically feasible. These, in turn, will be presented to the public in September in three separate community meetings.
Out of this process, a single, best-project proposal is likely to emerge. Macerich Company will make application to the city, and the proposal will be further debated and discussed in public before the Planning Commission and the City Council.
This project — which will reflect the broad interests of Santa Monica’s many and diverse stakeholders perhaps better and more truly than any project in our city’s history — will then advance or fall on its merits. Publicly, transparently, honestly.
Herb KatzSanta Monica City Council