Santa Monica is a city with distinctive residential neighborhoods but keeping those neighborhoods intact has become increasingly challenging due to development and regional pressures.
Residents from throughout the city had an opportunity to express their views on how to conserve their neighborhood’s character and scale at a community workshop on June 2. The workshop was another step in the city’s ongoing process of updating its Land Use and Circulation Elements of its General Plan.
At the workshop, about 100 residents broke into groups by neighborhood to discuss their neighborhood’s attributes, challenges, and ways to conserve their neighborhood’s character. Some common themes became clear when the workshop participants shared their key discussion points with the entire group at the end of the workshop.
Walkability was mentioned from almost all the residents as a key attribute of their neighborhood. Many thought the key challenges were dealing with increased parking and traffic problems, the loss of rent-controlled and affordable housing, and development which is incompatible with the neighborhood. Some common solutions were also offered. These included: having development guidelines so new development would be neighborhood compatible, having shared parking, and preserving neighborhood trees.
Mid-City residents noted that their area had stability, was quiet, and possessed many types of housing. Also, many felt they had close ties with their neighbors.
Residents from the Wilshire/Montana neighborhood pointed out their area is relatively safe and affordable. They were concerned about over-development, particularly the number of condominiums being built. They suggested that the City try to divert development targeted to their area elsewhere.
Ocean Park residents felt their neighborhood “feels like a small town” because of its walkable access to the beach, neighborhood services and gathering places. They felt the key challenges in their area were the loss of affordable and low-scale buildings for housing and commercial use. They suggested the City should conserve their beach tract and re-use more existing buildings.
Those who participated from Downtown Santa Monica noted the area’s easy access to Palisades Park, the beach and the Pier. Their challenges included noise from buses, traffic and entertainment, and no bathrooms for the homeless. They suggested the City develop a strategy for protecting courtyard housing.
Residents from the Northeast neighborhood noted their area has nice landscaping and street trees, a community center at Franklin Elementary School, and a cluster of houses on 25th street that should be considered as a conservation zone. Their challenges were the loss of trees and older theaters, and mansionization.
The Pico residents noted the number of educational institutions in their neighborhood, their cultural economic diversity, and the number of locally owned businesses as key characteristics of their area. Some of their challenges were: shouldering the burden of people entering Santa Monica from the 10 freeway and the future light rail line, development forcing residents out of the neighborhood, and air quality from traffic. When it came to solutions, they suggested the City require developers to issue a Community Impact Report which would include an assessment on how a project would impact community items such as jobs and housing. They also recommended having a local hiring requirement for development being proposed on the light rail transit corridor.
Participants from Sunset Park mentioned their area’s openness, trees, great schools and shopping as key characteristics. Their challenges were impacts from new office buildings, Santa Monica College and Santa Monica Airport. They suggested controlling mansionization.
Lastly, North of Montana residents pointed out their area’s trees, safety, many transportation options, and easy access to neighborhood serving businesses, excellent schools, and courtyard apartments. Their challenges were: a lack of park space and gathering places, maintaining their parkways and sidewalks with California’s water crisis, and a lack of beach access. They suggested the City use schools as community centers, and protect courtyard apartments.