Santa Monica has worked on a Bergamot area plan for some time, aiming to transform the site from a set of warehouses filled with art galleries, studios, and other creative uses into a revitalized, vibrant community center. On June 14, the Santa Monica City Council held a study session to get an update on the plan’s progress and to give input on its development.
The City’s recently adopted Land Use and Circulation Element recommended that a Bergamot area plan be developed to help create a high-quality, mixed-use creative arts/entertainment transit village. This new village will be centered around the new Expo Light Rail station that will be built by 2015, with a station stop at Bergamot. This area plan will encompass 140 acres and has been broken up by the city’s planning department into three sub areas – The Bergamot Transit Village, The Bergamot Art Center, and The Mixed-Use Creative District.
When complete, the Bergamot area plan will address area land uses, circulation, publicly accessible open space, an area-wide parking district, community benefits, infrastructure planning, and having a coordinated implementation for the plan. This coordination will include sequencing aimed at balancing public and private creation of transportation, amenities, and infrastructure.
The first community workshop was held on Feb. 17, and focused on the transit village. Those who participated expressed strong support for having people-scaled buildings and environments, walkable block sizes, connections and pathways to key destinations, green streets designed for all users, and streets that are landscaped and water wise. A strategy was also developed to accomplish the community’s goals, which include consolidating surface parking to create new pathways and mitigate traffic, creating new intersections, and using open space to provide a framework for buildings and streets.
Senior Planner Peter James told the council his department has been reaching out to involve the property owners in the Bergamot area that would be affected. He noted the Bergamot Transit Area property owners were very interested in shared parking.
The next community workshop will be in the evening of July 13 at Pier 59 studios. This workshop will help define a vision for the creative economy that will be centered at Bergamot Art Center. This center consists of 6.9 acres, of which the City owns 5.6 acres. The remaining 1.3 acres are privately owned. It is Southern California’s largest gallery complex, the center of the city’s creative base, and the future home of the Expo Light Rail Station. Workshop participants will have the chance to define art and cultural uses that add to the vitality of the current center and could endow future facilities and operations. In addition, they will explore national and international precedents that could serve as a model for the center. Lastly, they will examine methods to enhance the presence of the creative sector in the Bergamot Transit Village and the mixed-use creative districts.
Mayor Richard Bloom called for the entire area plan to be finalized by February 2012. Eileen Fogarty, the City’s planning and community development director, explained that the efforts on the arts center will continue after the July 13 workshop, with her department simultaneously working on refinements for the Bergamot Transit Village. Additionally, community efforts on the mixed-use creative area will begin in the fall.
Council member Terry O’Day said he has “strong feelings that parking should be underground – it makes for a much more pedestrian district and a much better impact on the surrounding neighborhood.” He also suggested that in order to keep the existing art galleries, temporary spaces should be offered to them while the Bergamot Art Center is changed. Lastly, he recommended that the area’s parcels should use recycled water.