Would Wilshire Boulevard be improved by a new “activity center” at the intersection of Wilshire and 14th Street? This, and safety on the streets were the two main topics at the Wilshire-Montana (Wilmont) Neighborhood Coalition’s annual meeting on June 20.
Mike Boyd, Neighborhood Resource Officer for Wilmont, and Eric Uller, the SMPD’s safety systems analyst, presented a brief overview of the new online Crime Mapping system. Crime View Community, accessed via the SMPD web site (smpd.org/crimemapping), gives a visual breakdown of crimes in Santa Monica, using area maps dotted with icons representing crimes such as burglary, car theft, and arson. Residents can search by city, area, beat, or type of crime (sex offenses are not included because of the sensitive nature of these crimes).
Boyd told the Wilmont residents that their area is mostly pretty safe. “I’ve seen people walking their dogs at two o’clock in the morning.” The main crimes right now are what he called “crimes of opportunity,” mainly thefts of laptops and other electronic devices from cars. Boyd advised people to not leave valuables in parked cars.
The idea of an activity center-a pedestrian-friendly area with new buildings featuring ground floor retail and housing above-has been proposed by the City for the area at Wilshire between 14th and Euclid Streets. City Planning Director Eileen Fogerty gave a presentation about the concept of activity centers as they fit into the City’s update of the LUCE (Land Use and Preservation Element) plan. The Wilshire activity center will have shared parking, wider sidewalks, green medians, and a focus on residential building, transitioning away from what Fogerty termed “a hostile environment” for pedestrians. As with other projects in the LUCE plan, taller buildings would be allowed if public benefits (such as family-oriented shopping like grocery stores) were included in the structures.
The plan was discussed by a panel that included City Councilmember Kevin McKeown, Planning Commission member Ted Winterer, former Planning Commission member and Lookout News columnist Frank Gruber, and Fogerty.
McKeown stated that change in the Wilshire neighborhood is inevitably going to happen. But his concern was that the change had to be what the residents wanted. “If we trade height and development for community benefits-what is a benefit? I want to hear from you what does deserve consideration.”
Winterer said he was mainly concerned with scale, while Gruber suggested that offering less parking (and charging for it) would be the best way to discourage too much traffic. He also told residents that it was important to realize what it was that they “feared” from a proposed new project, rather than simply opposing it.
Audience members commented on the way the project would address the needs of the physically handicapped and the elderly, what would happen with public transportation that runs on Wilshire, and the need for a Wilshire subway to make the activity center worthwhile.
“The option,” said Fogerty, “is not doing nothing. Do we keep the existing general plan? Or do we do something different….and make sure it provides what we need?”
Results of a resolution voted upon at the meeting showed that 74 per cent of Wilmont residents oppose the plan for the activity center.