Neighborhood safety and LUCE‘s Shape The Future Plan were the main topics at the annual meeting of the Wilshire Montana Neighborhood Organization (Wilmont) on June 7.
Santa Monica police officers Jaime Hernandez, and Jeff Glazer and civilian community relations / crime prevention agent Susie Kim talked about the Neighborhood Resource Unit. This policy, created after Timothy Jackman became Chief of Police, assigns an officer to each neighborhood in Santa Monica to handle calls from residents who want to report problems.
“If you need police right away, don’t call us,” said Officer Glazer, whose beat covers the downtown area and a portion of the Wilmont area. “But if you see something that doesn’t look right, call us. It could be someone new to the area, but it could be someone who doesn’t belong there. We just want to talk to them and find out.”
Kim spoke of the Citizens Academy, a 12-week class where citizens can learn about police procedures. The class meets twice a year, for an hour on Wednesday evenings, and anyone over 21 can attend for free.
Planning Director Eileen Fogerty spoke about the LUCE (Land Use and Circulation Element) Strategy Framework, currently under review by the City Planning Commission and the City Council.
“This is really just the first stage,” said Fogerty of the plan, which will be presented to the City Council, with a final draft to appear next winter.
Fogerty outlined the six major elements of the framework: neighborhood preservation and enhancement, integrated land use and transportation, pro-active congestion management, public benefits, urban character and form, and a sustainable Santa Monica.
One notable aspect of the LUCE Plan involves the creation of “activity centers” along major boulevards such as Wilshire. These areas, which will feature commercial and business development and mixed-use housing, will be able to build higher than the current limit of 45 feet, if the centers feature “public benefits” such as access to mass transit, open spaces, bike facilities, affordable and workforce housing, community arts centers, and youth activities.
Wilmont residents had questions for Fogerty. One man asked, “What do you consider affordable housing?” Fogerty said that this referred to housing approved for families whose income fell into the low-income bracket as defined by federal housing programs.
In regard to the “activity centers,” people wanted to know what would happen to reasonably priced businesses such as Von’s and Rite-Aid.
“We don’t have a zoning ordinance yet,” replied Fogerty. “But we are putting in policies that say that in the activity center, you have to have a grocery store. The demand is so great that we’re actually going to list [the services that are a must].”
Fogerty assured the Wilmont neighbors that the City would develop “incentives” for “Mom and Pop” businesses to thrive in activity centers.
While Fogerty presented an optimistic view of Santa Monica’s future, Diane Gordon, who spoke next, expressed concern about City development. Representing citizens supporting RIFT (Residents Initiative to Fight Traffic Congestion), she spoke of the successful grassroots effort that defeated the City’s plan to build the two 24-story towers at the Civic Center. “We won that fight – but we didn’t win the fight for the rest of downtown. Our city is at a crossroads – death by 1000 cuts. Developers are having a field day building under the old rules.”
She asked Wilmont to support RIFT. And the neighbors in attendance voted overwhelmingly to support the initiative. They also voted to demand that funds be set aside in the current City budget to hire personnel to implement parking changes in the Wilmont area, and voted to donate $500 to this year’s 4th of July parade on Main Street.