Open space and cultural experts suggested ways in which to integrate parks and arts into the City’s ongoing revision of the land use and circulation elements of the City’s General Plan at last Wednesday’s Planning Commission meeting.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. Susan Cloke, the Chair of the City’s Recreation and Parks Commission, reminded the Commission that Santa Monica’s open space “is under the national average and the City doesn’t have a lot of available land that can be used for open space,” so her board’s suggestions focused on how available resources could be best used for open space. For example, Cloke suggested that the beach parking lots south of Pico Boulevard be “designated as open space and identified as the future location for parks.” With that sort of “shared use,” the lot could be used for both parking and recreational uses, such as a soccer field and family picnicking, by resurfacing the lot. Cloke also discussed “opportunities for interim parks,” which would allow the City to use areas that will be developed three or four years down the road as parks now. These areas, such as the RAND property and the old Fisher Lumber site, could be used for demonstration gardens or for passive recreation. Cloke also recommended the inclusion of green/ recreational standards for multifamily residential areas to provide young children with play areas. .Turning to the circulation element, her Commission suggested that when the light rail line is built, there should be a linear park along the line, with a bicycle lane, which would connect one form of transportation with another. For example, light rail should be connected to bus and shuttle transportation. Finally, Cloke said that the City should utilize other alternative “fun” modes of transportation, create a “bike friendly” grid of streets, more opportunities to plant trees along the streets, and the City should assume the “environmental stewardship” of parks and beaches.The City’s Cultural Affairs Manager Jessica Cusick stated that the “greatest challenge facing the arts” is the escalation in real estate prices in the City that has caused “small creative spaces to be lost. We need to maintain what makes us different and special.” She encouraged the City to plan for affordable live/work spaces and “incentives for adaptive reuse of commercial buildings for creative uses.” In addition, she said, creative clusters such as studios out at the airport and Bergamot Station should be maintained. Cusick urged the City to include “cultural amenities” in its planning process because they contribute “to pedestrian neighborhoods, an improved quality of life and encourage density.”Elsa Longhauser, Executive Director of the Santa Monica Museum of Art, asked that the City “ensure that the museum has an affordable sustainable home and subsidized facilities for artists…the City has to stem the ever-increasing tide of artist exodus exemplified by the relocation of many galleries, artists and architects to Culver City and places beyond.”Wayne Blank a Bergamot lessee/operator, suggested that the City deed a portion of it to the Santa Monica Museum of Art, while retaining it, so the museum doesn’t have to pay rent. He also suggested that the City partner with developers to develop affordable housing for artists.
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