May 29, 2022 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

Santa Monica Must Outline Non-Negotiable Community Benefits To Developers:

Dear Editor,

Attending a meeting last Saturday, the point was made by a Santa Monica architect that FAR (floor area ratio) allows 84’ tall block buildings as seen in construction on Ocean Avenue but high rise would be better allowing space and light around and between. I strongly disagree. A revised downtown zoning code can easily correct this without defaulting to mid-rise or high-rise construction.

Telling a developer he’s allowed to build a box, he will build it. City Hall must outline what is required to make this box artistic and welcoming – along with non-negotiable community benefits if he’s given additional height and density.

As expected, business interests at this meeting ragged on the city not losing its business friendly manner while capturing additional income with more density. Santa Monica is inherently business friendly with its beachfront location/atmosphere – we don’t need to prostitute ourselves to developers or the chamber.

And we don’t need higher buildings to get more light, air, and landscape into downtown. We simply need a zoning code that requires sidewalk setbacks, distance between buildings above 1st floor, and significant terracing above 3 & 4 stories if we are to maintain our beachfront community.

An interesting remark was made that, similar to Santa Monica, Paris and Barcelona have only a handful of high rise buildings – so why do we need more?? Do we want gay Paree or Densityville? And if we have an “opportunity high rise” – only if it’s an iconic form such as water cascading down and billowing out at the base of a waterfall.

Santa Monica should not lose its “beachfront character” for an “urban downtown.” Current 84’ or 7 floors should be confined to a limited area, terracing to 3 and 4 stories at downtown’s perimeter. This terracing will help retain the fabric of existing 2 and 3 story buildings, allowing “opportunity sites” to have some added height, but only with exceptional community benefits and exceptional architecture determined by a panel of architects and art critics from outside the Santa Monica area.

If a public survey on heights is to be beneficial, it must show the public what an 84’ building looks like as a block similar to 5th St. or Ocean Avenue, what it looks like as a 10-12 story building, and what it looks like with a minimum of creative thought and zoning.

The sideshow regarding a public survey on heights reminds me of a remark heard recently that “there are people who pray in Vegas and those who pray in church, but it’s those in Vegas who are really sincere.” Hopefully the public won’t be hoodwinked with meaningless hyperbole.

In this regard, it is people who attend planning commission and council meetings that understand what’s happening to this city. It took a project next door for me to wake up in disbelief. The city required a developer spend $125,000 on an EIR and then proceeded to process a project that wasn’t even allowed by code!! It was wholesalely revised, again processed, and still didn’t meet code. How does this happen – did it help that the architect sat on a city commission?

Village Trailer Park was rushed through with a 2.8 FAR when weeks later the council approved an area plan with reductions to 2.0 FAR, terracing to 3 stories in scale with 1 and 2 story residences across Colorado!

It took me a series of individual meetings with the city manager and planning director to realize they cordially listen but don’t act. Will a silent majority of the city understand this quagmire we’re in?? Enough said, I’m off to pray in Vegas.

Ron Goldman, FAIA

Architect and Developer

in Opinion
Related Posts

Affordable Spaces for Small Business

May 27, 2022

May 27, 2022

Los Angeles County recently proposed a program providing financial incentives for certain “Legacy” family businesses in their original historical location....

​​Doubt Removed: Oil Refiners Gouging Us

May 23, 2022

May 23, 2022

By Tom Elias, Columnist There was some room for doubt back in February, when gasoline prices rose precipitously: Until the...

Is the Big Housing Crunch Mostly Fiction?

May 20, 2022

May 20, 2022

By Tom Elias, Columnist In some parts of California, there is definitely a housing crunch: small supplies of homes for...

Is Gelson’s Our Future? Bigger Is Not Better & Not Necessary! – Part 2

May 20, 2022

May 20, 2022

The dream of our beachfront city is about to become a nightmare! Just imagine a tsunami of these projects washing...

Column From Santa Monica Mayor Himmelrich: We Walk the Talk

May 12, 2022

May 12, 2022

By Sue Himmelrich, Santa Moncia Mayor  I like the SMa.r.t. architects. I often agree with them. But in allowing Mark...

Is Gelson’s Our Future? Bigger Is Not Better!

May 12, 2022

May 12, 2022

It’s appalling to see what’s happening in our city – projects recently built or about to be approved – in...

Renting Your Second Home

May 6, 2022

May 6, 2022

If you are among the many Americans who own a second home that you occasionally use as a vacation getaway,...

Column: Cities Fight to Maintain Distinctive Characters

May 6, 2022

May 6, 2022

By Tom Elias, Columnist Anyone who knows California well will realize that Palo Alto does not look much like nearby...

SMa.r.t. Column: Gelson’s, Boxed-In

May 6, 2022

May 6, 2022

This week we are re-visiting an article from 2018 regarding the Miramar project, by simply replacing the word “Miramar” with...

Column: Are You Talking Yourself Out of Saving for Retirement? Here’s How to Break the Habit

May 5, 2022

May 5, 2022

Saving for retirement can be an abstract concept. It’s something we all know we should do, but the farther away...

SMa.r.t. Column: Failure to Plan…

April 30, 2022

April 30, 2022

Over the last approximately two years your City has been busy trying to respond to new California laws that are...

Letter to Editor: Your “Standing Firm With Santa Monica” Initiative

April 25, 2022

April 25, 2022

The following is an open letter to Councilmember Sue Himmelrich from Santa Monica resident Arthur Jeon regarding a proposed transfer...

SMa.r.t. Column: Planning The Real Future

April 24, 2022

April 24, 2022

In the 1970s, renowned USC architecture professor Ralph Knowles developed a method for planning and designing cities that would dramatically...

SMa.r.t. Column: New City Financial Plan: The Resident Homeowner Bank

April 15, 2022

April 15, 2022

Part II: Who pays the proposed transfer tax and where does the money go? Last week, we introduced the proposed...

Column: NIMBYs Getting a Bad Rap

April 8, 2022

April 8, 2022

By Tom Elias Rarely has a major group of Californians suffered a less deserved rash of insults and attacks than...