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Planners, Residents Play Q & Q: City Planners Pose 16 Questions, Residents Repond with Their Own Questions

On August 16, the City of Santa Monica’s Planning and Community Department hosted an open house at which department staff informally discussed the second “milestone report” issued at part of the City’s revision of its land use and circulation elements of the City’s General Plan and Zoning Ordinance.

The land use element delineates 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. The zoning ordinance translates the Land Use Element’s goals and objectives into standards and procedures. They were last updated in 1984.

The second milestone report, “Opportunities and Challenges” builds on the ideas that were introduced in the first milestone report, “Emerging Themes” and examines existing conditions and trends.

The report also highlights 16 questions that are designed to challenge the community to consider the kinds of choices that will have to be made as the work on the revision proceeds.

At the open house, the questions were displayed and residents were given an opportunity to suggest additional questions and comment on the report.

The 16 questions are:

1. How can Santa Monica plan for the regional aspects of its economy, medical and educational institutions, and locational draw to create balanced growth and enhance the quality of life for residents?

2. What role can visitor-services play in Santa Monica’s future?

3. How much new housing should Santa Monica plan to maintain inclusiveness and opportunities for affordable housing and yet retain an “appropriate town scale?”

4. What types of new development could fulfill the City’s diversity and quality of life objectives?

5. How best can the existing industrial areas meet Santa Monica’s needs?

6. How best can the character and quality of Santa Monica’s residential neighborhoods be preserved while promoting neighborhood-serving amenities on adjacent commercial streets?

7. What is the appropriate scale and mix uses for boulevard commercial corridors?

8. What is the appropriate scale and character of specialty commercial corridors?

9. How can the City maintain its economic vitality and protect economic advantages?

10. How can the City foster small businesses and establishments to maintain uniqueness?

11. How can facilities that support a properly balanced transportation system be created?

12. How much parking is the appropriate amount for the community and what is the City’s role in facilitating its availability?

13. How best can transit-oriented development be promoted?

14. What are the appropriate scale, intensity, and character of the new development, particularly in areas that are likely to experience change over the coming 20 years, such as the industrial areas along corridors, and public spaces?

15. Other than policies directing new development, what resources are available to the City to implement the Community’s vision? Which strategies are the most important? Are there resources that might be overlooked by a traditional land use and circulation plan?

16. How best can Santa Monica promote greater connections between different parts of the City? How could the priorities of the Circulation Element integrate and support the City’s land use and how can urban design be best used as a tool in this integration?

People at the meeting proposed some additional questions.

1. Why do we continually assume for all planning purposes that we should or will have more development?

2. How can we facilitate cross-town transportation? Car? Bus?

3. How can Santa Monica promote greater connections among different neighborhoods? We’re only eight square miles yet, for example, “north of Montanans” spend little time with “Ocean Parkers.” There is some degree of Balkanization.

4. How about an elevated bicycle way that could run the length of Lincoln?

5. Are there plans/considerations being evolved for the “baby bommer seniors-to-be”? This demographic group will have different requirements/desires than the present senior community!

6. Why are we increasing development? Where do current residents shop? How can you improve the walking experience? Why not have free bus service w/in the City – like Portland?

7. How can we foster an appreciation and understanding of our City’s unique history? Commemorative plaques informing people about significant events, people from the past. Foster adaptive re-use (a “green” concept) of our historic buildings rather than teardown.

8. How can we expand our green spaces equally throughout the City? There’s no park north of Montana Avenue. The San Vicente Boulevard islands are not a park. How can we retain our tree canopy – City tree ordinance? We lose a lot to new development.

9. Why are you going to put 9000 units in this already overbuilt city? Why are we building more?

10. How can we reconcile the conflicting values? How can we tie our wish list to reality?

11. Why do buildings need to be taller? Especially along business corridors? Why not keep the ocean views for all of us?

People who want to review “Opportunities and Challenges Report” can do so at any of the City library branches, at the City Planning Division’s public counter or on-line at www.shapethefuture2025.net.The Planning Commission will discuss the report at its September 7 meeting, and the City Council has tentatively scheduled it for September 27.

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