The Board of the Ocean Park Association offers the following thoughts for you to consider while discussing the draft alternatives to the LUCE revisions:1. Traffic seems to be the primary concern of residents when they contemplate any additional growth in Santa Monica. Yet thus far notions for revising the Circulation Element don’t appear to be as nearly as developed as do the ideas for accommodating greater density under the draft alternatives presented to you. We believe plans for mitigating traffic should come first, before any discussion of growth which will add more cars to our streets. It’s true a certain proportion of our congestion comes from drivers who live outside of Santa Monica, but that’s no reason not to pursue methods to reduce car trips and alleviate congestion from our residents. If your house were on fire, would you spray it with water or gasoline? Let’s not add fuel to our traffic problems.2. And if you were building a home, wouldn’t you first figure out how many bedrooms you need before designing plans? Yet so far there has been no discussion of how much growth is desirable in Santa Monica or what the minimum levels of housing production to mean statutory requirements might be. Instead, we’ve only been offered nebulous concepts about where growth should take place, absent of any talk of how much growth there should be. Our own preference would be for managed growth, possibly with annual caps on square footage and yearly review of the impacts of these new developments, with a target range somewhere between the minimum necessary housing production and the SCAG forecast of a 3.9 percent increase in Santa Monica households by 2025.3. We remind you again that staff’s report continues to perpetuate the erroneous statement that residents prefer the existing height limits. This notion has been harder to kill off than Rasputin. We believe fervently that residents want to maintain existing heights, not those potentially allowed by our current zoning. We urge you to direct staff to correct this continual misstatement of fact in subsequent documents and to acknowledge that residents favor the existing as-built heights, densities and intensities of use. We also hope you will bear this clear-cut statement of popular will in mind during your further studies of the LUCE revisions and do your utmost to preserve our beach town’s current scale and ambiance.4. One of the primary reasons we are skeptical about future growth is that we have seen too clearly the impacts of past growth on the affordability of housing in our city, because new development has displaced so much rent-controlled housing stock. If we don’t seek ways to curb growth, curtail Ellis Act evictions and stifle real estate speculation and flipping through the LUCE revisions, we’ll only see more loss of older affordable rentals to the development of market rate housing with an inadequate affordable component. Likewise, more small businesses will be displaced by higher rents.If growth in Santa Monica continues at the current rate, we’ll soon be a city only for the very rich with a small population of lower-income residents in affordable housing and no middle-class. Only by government intervention to curb and control growth will we preserve our cherished diversity.5. We are concerned that thus far there has been little discussion of how to add public open space in the LUCE revisions to offset any increases in density, height or intensity of use.6. Newer developments on Main Street have been largely incompatible with our vision for this core of our neighborhood. Clearly, their scale is inconsistent with the older buildings on Main. In addition, curb cuts (required by the absence of alleys for garage entrances) which disrupt the pedestrian-friendly nature of the street; the dearth of retail frontage in some projects; and the construction of by-appointment-only gallery spaces have all been at odds with the goals of the Main Street Plan and do not animate the streetscape.We urge you to take measures to curb incompatible growth on Main Street from Pico to the Venice border. Likewise, we hope the LUCE revisions will preserve the current scale along our stretches of Pico and Lincoln and restore the residential character of Ocean Park from Lincoln to the beach.7. Our opinions on the specific alternatives being presented to you are difficult to formulate, as at this stage these alternatives are vague and lacking in specifics. Exactly how much density, height and intensification of use will be added under each scenario and how much of a percentage increase over existing conditions does each option propose?However, we have these thoughts:Alternative A: The Neighborhood Center concept seems appealing as a means to promote pedestrian activity and discourage auto traffic. However, we feel you should be cautious about fostering new development in those places where existing conditions seem to already attain this goal. For instance, the stretch of Ocean Park Boulevard between 16th and 18th Streets already contains an abundance of small, neighborhood-serving businesses (boutiques, a grocery, restaurants, preschool, shoe repair store, etc.). Most, if not all, of these businesses would be displaced by the higher rents caused by new development and replaced by chain stores. Is that what we want for these neighborhood centers?Alternative B: We worry that the Uptown/Downtown scenario will displace the thriving arts center near Bergamot Station, one of our cultural jewels, and add traffic to an area already congested by large developments such as the Water Gardens.Alternative C: We are highly skeptical that the residents of new market rate developments fostered by the Grand Boulevards scheme will utilize public transportation and these already congested east-west corridors will be further impacted.Alternative D: We feel that the appellation Status Quo is a misnomer and should be changed to something like Current Zoning and that figures for the maximum growth allowed under our present zoning ordinance should be incorporated into this scenario to allow for a realistic analysis of it by the public. In fact, all of the alternatives should be presented with computer-generated illustrations, as it is our understanding the consultant for the LUCE revisions was selected in part due to its ability to produce three-dimensional visualizations.We’d also very much like to see the No Growth scenario fleshed out in much greater detail. While we do not necessarily favor this concept, it seems imprudent for it not to be presented to the public as of the same stature as the other alternatives.8. Finally, we endorse the contents of the Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City (SMCLC) letter on this subject sent to you 1/4/06 Sincerely,The Board of the Ocean Park AssociationEd. Note: The SMCLC comments appeared in the Mirror on January 11.
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