September 25, 2020 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

SMa.r.t.- A City For Everyone

“…would someone be kind enough to tell me what has happened to our benches on the Promenade? When one entire block of benches disappeared, I questioned where they were and was told they were being ‘repaired’ and they would be returned. As a senior, those benches are quite important to me. I can only go a short distance before I’m out of breath…When will the rest of them be coming back? ”

That message on the “Santa Monica Government, Politics, Policies and People” Facebook page represents a challenge for the City, and for many current residents. Although this specific issue was resolved soon after the message was posted, many residents have difficulties navigating the city’s man-made environment because of poor planning, inconsiderate design and weak communications. Examples range from parking structure signs on Fourth Street blocking the view of on-coming traffic, to problems with the bus benches, and from unenforced noise regulations to infrequent bus service. This affects people of all ages, not only seniors.

Here’s a reality: for all the efforts to make Santa Monica into the youthful city of the future, baby boomers make up over 40 percent of the city’s residents. These folks face increasing challenges with mobility, vision, hearing and response times. Santa Monica has been very active in developing services for seniors, people with disabilities and low-income folks, as can be seen on the City’s web site. But an approach based on service is only one component of a successful all-ages city. The physical “user-interface” is just as important. Make the city friendly and easy to use, and everyone’s life here improves. The new “scramble” crosswalks downtown are an excellent example.

It’s a matter of making it easier for people to use the city: provide street shade throughout the year, reduce ear-shattering noise from buses, trucks and motorcycles, make places where people can sit, relax and socialize, help pedestrians feel safe crossing the street or walking down the sidewalk, provide frequent bus service. These are all features of age-friendly cities that benefit all residents, regardless of their age.

What makes a successful age-friendly city? The World Health Organization has a checklist used by many cities. A few examples:

  • The city is clean, with enforced regulations limiting noise levels and unpleasant or harmful odors in public places.
  • Outdoor seating is available, especially in parks, transport stops and public spaces, and spaced at regular intervals; the seating is well-maintained and patrolled to ensure safe access by all.
  • There are separated cycle paths for cyclists.
  • Public transport is reliable and frequent (including services at night and weekends.)
  • Transport stops are located close to where older people live, are provided with seating and shelter from the weather, are clean and safe, and are adequately lit.
  • Roads are free of obstructions that might block a driver’s vision.
  • Housing design facilitates continued integration of older people into the community.

Many of these examples are very familiar to Santa Monica residents, because the City has incorporated some of them into its planning activities, but also because the City has, famously, utterly failed to incorporate others. What we need is a systematic effort to make sure that the city’s physical aspects match the needs of its residents, many of whom are not only aging themselves, but also supporting children and caring for older parents. Fixing things to help people function well in the city should be a “no-brainer” project for the highly-competent planners now working for the city.

Here are a few things the City can start doing right away.

  • Join the World Health Organization’s Global Network of Age-Friendly Cities and Communities, and use their guide (and checklist) as a roadmap for the city. Some items are already done, but many others remain missing. (see: http://tinyurl.com/k2whbgd.)
  • Assign a planner to create a checklist of physical aging-friendly measures, and then spend several hours every single month to ensure that these items are designed and implemented, and that this “all-ages” urban design plan includes all the projects within the city limits (including parks and bus stops.) No more stand-alone organizational silos, uncoordinated with other projects around town.
  • Amend zoning to allow two-story apartment buildings (so-called “dingbat” buildings) to be turned into much-needed small assisted-living facilities. Many of these buildings are ideally situated for this activity, both in their age-friendly locations and in their physical layout, which would allow staff and support spaces upstairs, and resident care rooms downstairs.
  • Enforce the noise and smoking laws. The downtown bus stops have become outdoor smoking rooms, a health hazard for all bus users and especially those with respiratory problems. Enforce the noise rules by ticketing muffler-less motorcycles and other vehicles that, apart from destroying the peace and quiet of many neighborhoods, also pose health hazards in the dense downtown areas.
  • Fix the bus stops throughout the city, provide protection from the sun where possible, and increase service frequency.
  • Fix the parking structure signs downtown. They are located at the exact height to obstruct the view of on-coming traffic.

These are just a few items to help start making this an “all-ages” city.

The City should affiliate with the WHO Global Network of Age-Friendly Cities, and take a cue from New York’s Aging Improvement Districts, as one example. (see: http://tinyurl.com/kwn2v3x). Let’s plan and design this city to make it comfortable and usable for everyone.

 

Daniel Jansenson, Architect, 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.

SMart

in News
Related Posts

Miramar Project to go Before City Council Tuesday

September 24, 2020

September 24, 2020

Councilmember Gleam Davis asks City Attorney whether she should rescue self from vote  By Sam Catanzaro  Santa Monica lawmakers will...

SMa.r.t. Column: Needed, A Heart Transplant

September 24, 2020

September 24, 2020

We have written about adaptive reuse in previous columns and have postulated that with proper incentives, the existing one, two...

Edify TV: Boulders Blocking Westside Encampment

September 24, 2020

September 24, 2020

City officials recently removed boulders placed on sidewalks by some Westside residents to prevent the formation of a homeless encampment....

Should Council Member Davis Recuse Herself From Voting? Santa Monica Beat – September, 24, 2020

September 24, 2020

September 24, 2020

Local news and culture in under 5 minutes. * Should Council Member Davis Recuse Herself From Voting? * Increases In...

SMC to Be Online for Winter and Spring 2021

September 24, 2020

September 24, 2020

College cites lack of available vaccine  By Sam Catanzaro Santa Monica College (SMC) has announced it will be delivering classes...

Edify TV: Al Fresco Program Ending?

September 24, 2020

September 24, 2020

During a COVID-19 pandemic many restaurants have found aid through the City of Los Angeles’ Al Fresco dining program, but...

Local Breweries Say They Have Been Unfairly Shuttered as County Passes Grant Program

September 24, 2020

September 24, 2020

$10 million grant program approved by Board of Supervisors  By Sam Catanzaro Will a $10 million grant program be enough...

Santa Monica Loses Vegan Restaurant

September 23, 2020

September 23, 2020

Space housing Santa Monica vegan restaurant Viva Vegan up for lease By Sam Catanzaro A vegan restaurant in Santa Monica...

Risks Posed by Wildfire Smoke

September 22, 2020

September 22, 2020

UCLA pulmonologist on how people can tell if the wildfires are making them sick By Toi Creel Even if you...

Will Los Angeles County See Another Spike in COVID-19 Cases?

September 22, 2020

September 22, 2020

County health officials keeping close eye on data this week By Sam Catanzaro Los Angeles County health officials are monitoring...

Edify TV: Santa Monica Fire Department Fighting Blazes Across State

September 21, 2020

September 21, 2020

The Santa Monica Fire Department has been busy helping combat wildfires burning throughout the state. Learn more in this video...

Lawmakers and Residents Take Steps Towards Police Reform

September 21, 2020

September 21, 2020

Santa Monica residents will soon have more control of policing after local lawmakers took significant steps to reform the Santa...

2020 Census Due September 30th: Santa Monica Beat – September, 21, 2020

September 21, 2020

September 21, 2020

Local news and culture in under 5 minutes. * 2020 Census Due September 30th * Bobcat Fire Reaches Historical Size...

UCLA Medical Center, Santa Monica Offers Free “Living With Diabetes” Zoom Patient Conference

September 21, 2020

September 21, 2020

By Staff Writer Although the novel coronavirus has dominated the health space this year, other diseases — like diabetes —...

SMa.r.t. Column: Spending and Pension Policies Are Undermining Our City’s Future

September 21, 2020

September 21, 2020

Our guest columnist this week is Marc L. Verville. He is a native of Santa Monica, now lives in Sunset...