October 24, 2020 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

SMa.r.t. Column: Is Santa Monica’s Heart For Sale?

Following is the first of several articles previously written about a proposed hotel project in the center of our downtown. It appears this behemoth of a project on Arizona between 4th & 5th is rearing its ugly head again and we all need to become involved with our neighborhood councils as this single project is one more stake thru the heart of our beach town and will determine whether our downtown becomes just a reflection of Los Angeles or maintains its beachfront character.

The euphemistically named “Plaza at Santa Monica” poses a very simple question of our downtown: Is our downtown just a giant ATM for developers? If the downtown is to be the center of our city, it needs to have a commanding central open space that can be a “there” there for the entire City. Most cities, big and small, l have a large open space that is the center of their public life. This project is proposing a 148’ high cash register be the center of our public life. We can and must do better than this.

This parcel is the effective center of downtown now that downtown has been extended to Lincoln Blvd. With the downtown densification proposed in the adopted Downtown Community Plan, an open public plaza is just what this site needs. Centrally located on the Arizona bike lane, accessible for the 4th and 5th street transit corridors (which have their own freeway access), only one block from the Wilshire and Santa Monica bus lines and just 4 blocks from the light rail, this premium site should be an open space for the entire City. Not a park per se since we already have Palisades, Reed and Tongva Parks nearby, but an urban plaza that could have park-like elements, but its major role would be public events and public enjoyment. Revenue generating services will certainly be needed on the perimeter of this space, but not anywhere near the scale being proposed for this site.

Because of the proposed oversize hotel, offices and housing, the project suggests a puny corner open space that’s only 15% of the site. It’s actually smaller than the space currently dedicated to our seasonal ice skating rink. In other words, as the Downtown Community Plan build out doubles or triples downtown’s square footage, available public open space shrinks. The currently proposed roof decks garnished with faux ecologies (potted plants) are effectively inaccessible to the public because they are 18, 58, and 98 feet above the ground. The public has no real way to experience them. So at exactly the moment we need the foresight to build in more downtown open space for our current and future residents, tourists and workers, we are squandering this chance for a new inviting open space and filling it with an unneeded behemoth.

The proposed building is an ecological disaster with no chance of being even close to energy neutral, which all buildings should aim for, since it has nowhere near enough solar collector area to even illuminate safely its 12 floors, much less operate elevators, air conditioning, or electric car recharging. While maximizing its own financial gain, it arrogantly compromises the ability of its neighbors to improve their energy neutrality. The gloomy shading and negative solar impact of this building will be felt in an arc covering 3 blocks west, north, and east of the building. In fact, the main façade of the building orients north-west and will not have direct sun until the late afternoon. The open plaza is effectively shaded for most of the day by the main structure and it will block prevailing breezes needed for natural ventilation for a distance of 4 blocks to the east. Fifth St., which has only one lane southbound, and has already been overdeveloped between Broadway and Colorado, will functionally collapse under the weight of the additional 1,200 cars spreading a pool of congestion, especially to the already overloaded 4th street. A building of the proposed size can only move us farther from our goal of water independence by 2020. The list of its negative impacts goes on and on and will be all we have to show for it is $1.3 million dollars a year in rent.

But the real problem is that on a site owned by the City’s residents, the City is encouraging a development of exactly the kind of project the majority of residents rejected a few years ago by referendum. Instead of modeling an exemplary project on its own land, the City’s actions will make it very difficult to deny other developers similar 148’ high Godzillas. How can we as a community stop this kind of urban cancer when our own City government is growing the biggest tumor of all? The City should be visibly restrained and judicious in its use of our limited resources and while land is the most limiting resource, the trust of residents is also limited and is destroyed by these kinds of excesses.

There are many good alternatives for the use of this land. The 4th/5th and Arizona site could easily become the center of our City by remaining a majority open space. The role of this space would be to continue all the activities currently happening on nearby 3rd Street Promenade and sometimes in the Civic Center parking lot. In addition, it could provide space for the current ice skating rink, farmer’s market, enlarged outdoor dining, book fairs, theatrical performances or movies, pet shows, car shows, political rallies and countless other public events that require a more rectangular spaces than the linear Promenade provides. This new plaza would become the true heart of Santa Monica.

Hs anyone on the City Council or in the Planning Department shown why we “need” to violate our own zoning laws so dramatically on this particular property?

We should stop searching for a place to jam in an oversized iconic building and go back to the urban planning drawing board with a slimmed down Santa Monica Plaza. This is clearly a case where less is more.

SMa.r.t. (Santa Monica Architects for a Responsible Tomorrow)

Robert H. Taylor AIA, Ron Goldman FAIA, Architect, Thane Roberts, Architect, Dan Jansenson, Architect, Building and Fire-Life Safety Commission, Samuel Tolkin Architect, Mario Fonda-Bonardi, AIA, Planning Commissioner

For previous articles see www.santamonicaarch.wordpress.com/writings.

Related Posts

City Council Endorsements: Santa Monica Needs a Change

October 22, 2020

October 22, 2020

Santa Monica City Council endorsements from the Santa Monica Mirror The following are two endorsement articles from Santa Monica Mirror...

Crime in Santa Monica Is Declining: Santa Monica Beat – October, 22, 2020

October 22, 2020

October 22, 2020

Local news and culture in under 5 minutes. * Crime in Santa Monica Is Declining * 335 Homeless Residents Housed...

Forma Expanding to Main Street: Westside Food Scene

October 22, 2020

October 22, 2020

Westside Food Scene October 22, 2020 By Kerry Slater Forma Expanding to Main Street Popular Santa Monica Italian restaurant Forma...

California Supreme Court to Hear Santa Monica Voting Rights Case

October 22, 2020

October 22, 2020

Court to rule on future of at-large elections in Santa Monica By Sam Catanzaro The California Supreme Court will determine...

LA County Says Younger Adults and Teenagers Are Driving COVID-19 Cases

October 20, 2020

October 20, 2020

68 percent of new cases among people between ages of 12 and 50 By Sam Catanzaro Los Angeles County health...

Santa Monica Has Issued Over 40 Face Covering Citations

October 20, 2020

October 20, 2020

City expanding COVID-19 compliance efforts with the addition of “Health Ambassadors”  By Sam Catanzaro The City of Santa Monica says...

Grand Jury Indicts Former Angel Employee in Tyler Skaggs’ Fatal Overdose

October 19, 2020

October 19, 2020

Fort Wayne grand jury indicts Eric Prescott Kay on drug distribution and drug conspiracy charges By Sam Catanzaro A federal...

YogaWorks Studios Closing Amid Pandemic: Santa Monica Beat – October, 19, 2020

October 19, 2020

October 19, 2020

Local news and culture in under 5 minutes. * YogaWorks Studios Closing Amid Pandemic * Carjacking Suspects in Custody All...

Edify TV: More Bike Lanes for Westside

October 19, 2020

October 19, 2020

A Westside city is adding more miles of protected bike lanes. Learn more in this video made possible by Santa...

Outgoing Santa Monica Police Chief Set to Receive Nearly $100K of Severance Pay

October 19, 2020

October 19, 2020

Santa Monica City Council approves retirement agreement for outgoing chief Cynthia Renaud By Sam Catanzaro Santa Monica’s outgoing police chief...

Intravenous Vitamin Therapy: A Natural, Effective Solution for the Flu

October 19, 2020

October 19, 2020

By Dr. Mahboubeh Hashemi, ND and Dr. Matthew Cavaiola, ND  As fall and winter are fast approaching, many people, and...

Edify TV: Deal to House Homeless People Near Freeways

October 18, 2020

October 18, 2020

After months of negotiations, the City and County of LA reached a $300 million deal to house thousands of homeless...

Santa Monica’s Police Chief Retiring

October 16, 2020

October 16, 2020

SMPD Cynthia Renaud announces retirement, to be replaced by former Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks By Sam Catanzaro Santa Monica has announced...

Virtual Staging Changing The Way We Sell Property?

October 16, 2020

October 16, 2020

Today on Westside Cribz, Chuck Lorre buys his neighbors home, Rage Against the Machine drummer Brad Wilk selling his Santa...