After spending hours into the night discussing Palisades Garden Walk and Town Square, the Santa Monica City Council only needed minutes at its June 14 meeting at City Hall to approve an amendment to the Civic Center Specific Plan to allow for the addition of Santa Monica College’s Early Childhood Education Center (ECEC).
As part of the agenda item, the council also approved the elimination of Main Street Circle “as a public improvement for Main Street,” and approved City Manager Rod Gould to execute with the RAND Corporation a transfer agreement and joint escrow instructions for three parcels of land that would help the City develop the “Living Street” project.
Per the staff report and council recommendation, the revised ECEC plans would accommodate an extra 3,500 square feet of space, giving the facility 16,000 total square feet to work with. ECEC’s enrollment would remain at 100 preschool children, as originally planned.
In order to facilitate the extra 3,500 square feet of space, a surface parking lot at the corner of Fourth Street and Civic Center Drive would be eliminated.
“The dedicated children’s play area would be … facing the park, providing quality open space for the center’s children,” an addendum to the Civic Center specific plan environmental impact report stated.
Betsy Hiteshew of Santa Monica College’s early childhood education program commended the council on moving swiftly on this issue.
“This is quite a historic moment for us. To the best of my knowledge, this is the only such partnership in the state of California,” Hiteshew said. “The task force dedicates itself to ensuring with you that it is a world-class facility worthy of the beautiful park (in Palisades Garden Walk) that we have just heard outlined.”
She also stressed the importance of quality design and construction.
“Constructing a child care center is a complex undertaking, and requires specialized expertise. As we enter the planning and design stage of this project, it will be extremely important that the City and the college have the benefit from the outset of appropriate consultants with expertise in the construction of early childhood facilities.”
According to the staff report, “SMC’s center would exceed the typical size of a high quality childcare center for 100 children because the college plans to include space for teaching, conferencing, observation, and other functions as part of the concept for providing a state of the art childcare teaching facility.”
The early childhood education program at Santa Monica College states it is “committed to enhancing the personal development of students by fostering self-esteem, facilitating the ability to form human relationships, and promoting a climate of acceptance for typically and atypically developing children of diverse backgrounds.”
Council members did not have a discussion about this agenda item, with Kevin McKeown immediately moving for a vote.
Only five council members were present to vote on the matter, as both Bobby Shriver and Pam O’Connor excused themselves from the meeting just prior to the agenda item.