By Phil Brock
We began the new-year with a list of wishes for the betterment of our community. Today, we follow up with another layer of suggestions for an improved Santa Monica.
Let’s police and protect Palisades Park. Recently while walking through that park’s southernmost three blocks we passed twenty-three park visitors actively smoking. A break dancing troupe had blocked off the park’s historic trail at Colorado with yellow cones to mount a dance number. A woman was selling churros from a suitcase on the ramp down to the Pier. Trash was scattered everywhere and many of our less fortunate citizens were bedded down in the park near the former senior center. Yet there were no Public Safety or Police officers to be found. Most of our 8.4 million visitors make Palisades Park and the Pier their first stop in our city. Let’s arrange for a constant public safety presence in our city’s signature historic park.
The Plaza At Santa Monica is a flashpoint in our city’s development squabbles. This proposed high-rise between 4th and 5th Street on Arizona is on City-owned land. The project’s “benefits” include underground parking, yet more office workers, increased traffic, more forced street shading and a lot more concrete. Oh, we get to keep the ice skating rink. We think the scale and the density should be drastically reduced – with no office tenants. How about 25 percent of the space for development and 75 percent to become a new urban park with respite for all in our busy downtown? Shouldn’t the residents benefit from their city-owned land?
Easing traffic remains our residents’ top priority, yet those living on 21st, 23rd, Ashland, Hill, Navy, and Marine suffer through gridlock each weekday afternoon. Street lighting there is sparse. Alleys are used as streets as afternoon rush hour heads towards Venice and Playa Vista. Our City provides no assistance. Are there barriers, stop signs, traffic cops at Ocean Park Blvd. each afternoon? No, nada, nothing.
We lost part of our urban forest during the drought and Santa Monica’s tree canopy was already below average. We must plant more trees in our city. Give our dedicated urban forester the trees he needs to make Arbor Day a year-round event.
City Staff have called the proposed Downtown Community Plan our city’s most inclusive planning effort yet. There has been widespread outreach but rancor still exists. Downtown has expanded and it’s a denser, taller mass of buildings than many of us desired. It’s time for our City council to remember why they moved to our city by the sea. It wasn’t to create a big corporate Santa Monica. They came to a low-rise beach community with a distinct difference from Los Angeles. It had character and uniqueness. Take a look at the development designs proposed for 5th and 6th Streets from Broadway to Colorado and for three corners of Lincoln and Colorado to see our future – remarkably similar to most modern big cities. That’s an indictment, not a compliment.
It’s time to light up our city. Many of our residential streets lack adequate street lighting. Our City staff needs to dip into our coffers to help light up neighborhoods. It will make for a safer city.
There has been a lawsuit filed to force district City Council elections in Santa Monica in order to achieve neighborhood equity. When the new City Attorney arrives, let’s make it a priority to examine this issue fully. Perhaps a citywide, elected mayor with council members devoted to the neighborhoods they live in would be a pleasant transformation.
We applaud the idea of SMC’s Early Childhood Education Center but the location has perplexed many. It’s smack dab in the middle of the Civic Center, away from residential neighborhoods. Every one of the over 100 children attending will have to be driven in and out each day, unless as many have pointed out, its primary users will be downtown employees’ small children. The facility is designed to be an observation lab school for the education of SMC students. The design is done. A 55-year, one dollar/year lease is being negotiated with a hefty City subsidy. Many feel the location should be reimagined. A quieter neighborhood site with lower pollution, closer to SMC’s existing campuses might be available. We know this has been a long admirable struggle for child development advocates. Still, it’s worth a pause to consider changing conditions.
There is a housing crisis developing in our city. Santa Monica College started it by accident, in the Pico Neighborhood. The influx of foreign and out-of-state students has caused rents to rise, affecting the lives of residents. SMC’s leadership needs to address student housing in a forthright manner.
Our seniors have great programs thanks to Wise And Healthy Aging at the Ken Edwards Center. However, the building wasn’t designed for seniors and the location remains a difficult access point for our elder residents. Wouldn’t it be great to have a smaller Civic Center performance space, a great indoor/outdoor senior center and the high school’s new playing fields all in close proximity? That would really define the dictionary definition of the word “Civic”.
Safety concerns dictate that a blinking pedestrian light be placed at 15th and Montana now.
We all cringe at the thought of one-way streets. However, it’s an idea whose time has come for 2nd and 4th Streets downtown. On that subject, our traffic engineers have created a dangerous mess on 2nd Street northbound. Let’s get traffic flowing there again.
We see much that can be improved in Santa Monica. We welcome the increased multi-generational activism in our city. We know that our residents are passionate, involved, smart and caring. We all know what a gem our city is. Santa Monica’s 8.4 square miles and 94,000 plus residents are world class, not because of our buildings but because of our people. We’ll all fortunate to live in this very special place. Let’s keep it that way.
Phil Brock for SMa.r.t
Santa Monica Architects for a Responsible Tomorrow: Thane Roberts AIA, Robert H. Taylor AIA, Daniel Jansenson Architect, Ron Goldman FAIA, Samuel Tolkin Architect, Mario Fonda-Bonardi AIA, Planning Commissioner, Phil Brock, Arts Commissioner.