Last week more than 350 residents weighed in on the Downtown Specific Plan, and the message came through loud and clear: the overwhelming majority oppose the tidal wave of proposed developments in the down town area.
There are currently an unprecedented 46 development agreements in the pipeline, 27 of which were filed in the past year.
And as we heard last week, the most serious area of concern was the eight so-called Opportunity Sites, where developers have what amounts to a blank slate to propose projects significantly exceeding the zoning standards in the other parts of the downtown area, ostensibly so long as the developer provides a certain number of vaguely defined “community benefits” like exemplary architecture, cultural institutions or a finite amount of affordable housing.
This freedom from constraints lies at the heart of the battle against three proposed skyscrapers at the waterfront: the Miramar Hotel, the Gehry building and the Holiday Inn.
Each of these proposed projects has as its center a massive tower of about 21 stories in height and includes varying numbers of luxury condos.
Each contradicts the Downtown Specific Plan, and, more to the point, the LUCE, which promised to protect light and air from the ocean and cherish the unique character our city.
How can this be achieved with precedent -setting high rises across from Palisades Park. And what about the Miramar?
The LUCE calls for sites adjacent to residential areas to be “transitional zones” in order to keep the neighborhoods from being dwarfed and literally overshadowed by looming towers.
The Miramar, on its north side, is directly across from a quiet residential area and it is proposing what would be the tallest building in Santa Monica!
Last week we learned that the Downtown Specific Plan is making tremendous strides in implementing the LUCE and providing clear guidelines for development in the busiest part of our city.
However, the “elephant in the room” cannot be ignored. These eight opportunity sites must not be left for case by case decision outside of the aegis of the DSP. They are profit-driven and self-serving. Their cumulative negative impact has the clear potential of undermining all of the promise of the LUCE
Opportunity sites should be held to the same standards and zoning requirements that apply to every development coming before the Planning Commission and City Council.
That is the message that came through loud and clear at last week’s meeting. I commend The Mirror for giving us the opportunity to continue the conversation.