Gwynne Pugh, the new Vice Chair of Santa Monuca’s Planning Commission, is an architect, civil engineer and an urban design consultant. He was appointed to the Commission in January, 2004.
His firm, Pugh, Scarpa and Kodama Architects, designed the much-lauded affordable housing project, Colorado Court, located at Fifth and Colorado, that generates much of its own energy.
He believes that the fact that he has “seen all aspects of life in Santa Monica” helps him “understand the issues in trying to build in Santa Monica,” and thinks the ongoing revision of the land use and circulation elements of the City’s General Plan and Zoning Ordinance are “engendering a strong debate about what we want Santa Monica to be.”
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.
Noting that “contradictory goals” are emerging from the work on the Plan revision, Pugh predicted that comprises will have to be made when the city begins to define its ultimate “goals.” He sees the Planning Commission’s role in the process as a forum for “debate and education” on the issues.
Turning to the Macerich Company’s plans for redeveloping Santa Monica Place, Pugh said the original proposal is “not going to fly,” but that redevelopment on that site is “crucial,” and hopes whatever shape it ultimately takes “will be appropriate to the context” of downtown Santa Monica.
Pugh describes himself as a strong believer in “hearing from as broad a spectrum of the community as possible” on City planning issues, adding that while many project parameters are “set up by law, there is some level of discretion in dealing with planning issues…and the City gets better projects when there is good community input and input leads to accommodation.”
One of Pugh’s goals is more “effective management of Commission meetings.”
Hank Koning, also an architect, is the newest member of the Planning Commission. His firm Koning and Eizenberg has worked on a broad range of projects. Its Santa Monica projects include the Community Corporation’s affordable housing project on Fifth Street, the City’s Ken Edwards’ Center on Fourth Street and the expansion of Virginia Avenue Park in the Pico neighborhood.
Koning believes Santa Monica is “more livable today than 25 years ago” and that the City should continue to be “very vibrant by offering a lot of variety of living experiences and entertainment options.”
Traffic, in his view, is one of Santa Monica’s most “difficult issues,” and a regional issue as well, that’s “not going to get any better” until there are more alternative modes of transportation available, as one finds in such cities as Paris, London or New York. The alternatives include “reinforcing” more bus, bicycle riding and walking and the development of the Exposition Light Rail project.
He thinks the City should expand Big Blue Bus service by running buses more frequently and adding new routes.
He would also reduce traffic by locating more housing on commercial corridors, increasing the number of mixed use development, (projects containing both housing and retail) and locating neighborhood markets adjacent to housing.
Koning would like development in Santa Monica to be done in such a way that the City does “not lose its small town feel.”
The new Commissioner views the land use and circulation element update “as an exciting opportunity to address important City issues.” He believes the update should address the question of how the City should “reconcile historic development with property rights” and therefore “explore ways to preserve our history.”
Koning joined the Commission because he wants “to influence positive change…[residents] must recognize things are going to change and change is good.”
Koning believes the Commission should take public input “seriously [as] people have very real concerns and the zoning code can be modified by public concerns…[but] you can’t make everyone happy. You have to make decisions that are best for the community as a whole.”
He concluded that in determining land use policy, there are always going to be “long-term impacts, so you have to polish up the crystal ball.”The Mirror talked with Pugh and Koning on Tuesday, September 6.