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

SMa.r.t. Column: A Clean Slate

So there you have it! Maybe. Another win for the rich guys as the Planning Commission voted 6 to 1 to approve the design of that cruise ship sunk on Ocean Ave and Wilshire, and euphemistically referred to as the Miramar Hotel.

In case you are among those who may not follow the over-development that is devastating our town, the Miramar project will create what is essentially a 900 ft long condominium (they say hotel) that starts along Wilshire, wrapping around the corner onto 2nd street and creating a “great wall” the entire length to California, and then turns the corner towards Ocean Ave. 

Why is it that the City, i.e. the council, and various commissioners, continue to approve these very large projects that are so out of scale with the “character” of our beach community.  One is hard pressed to believe that our Planning Commission, Architectural Review Board (ARB), and ultimately our City Council, charged with following the LUCE (Land Use Circulation Element), which states “It is a conservation plan that provides for an overall reduction in building height.” would give serious consideration to its approval of the Miramar, let alone actually approve it, but, here we are. It seems this council has a thing for ‘great walls’ with another great wall on Lincoln, and the distinct possibility of another along 5th St at Arizona as this council just approved continuing “negotiations” with that developer.

There is so much that is bad about the scale of the Miramar, and it will forever have a negative impact on the immediate neighborhood and the downtown. It also adds significantly to this councils ‘portfolio’ and primer of “how to destroy a beachfront community”.  Zoning allowed for a 45ft height limit when the first Miramar design submission was presented to the council, then came the updated zoning plan, which pushed the height along Ocean Ave up to 50ft. Subsequently a Downtown Specific Plan was developed, having been nicely carved out of the LUCE for ‘future planning’, and some ‘spots’ were identified as ‘special’ opportunity sites, with heights allowed to 146ft. One just happens to be the Miramar site, and 

another  the Gehry Hotel site, also on Ocean Ave at Santa Monica Blvd., and the last one being the 4th/5th & Arizona site. All three developments having been in long time “negotiations” that preceded the zoning changes, with, no surprise, the same majority of council members.

The expected impact on our community, if approved by this council, will be thousands of added daily car trips, a severely overburdened water supply and increased infrastructure demand. They have further increased the jobs/housing imbalance and, in turn, use that as an argument that there is a “housing shortage” to justify additional mixed-use development that ultimately ends up displacing lower-income families and increases gentrification. It’s time for a change. This council needs to be replaced.

We at SMa.r.t. have been writing and advocating for responsible and controlled, rational, growth for the last seven years. Early on we laid out five critical points that defined what we knew would be necessary goals if we were to help create and shape a livable, balanced, viable, functional, and economically responsible community that would be inclusive not exclusive. Those five goals are:

1.  To preserve Santa Monica’s beach culture

The City’s “beach” style differentiates it from neighboring cities to the east and should be preserved- both for its residents as well as for those who visit each year to escape “the hustle and bustle” of urban life.

2.  To maximize light, air, views and green space

We should continue to provide more open space and keep new construction in scale with the existing building stock. New parks and open space should be a priority.

 3.  To build at a human scale and for family life         

The City’s seaside character and human scale plays an important role in its allure. The low-rise residential buildings, that are better suited for families, are being replaced by multi-story projects with fewer bedrooms and little connection to life at ground level.

4.  To create a walkable, bikeable and drivable city

In the great European cities, the pedestrian experience is enhanced with large sidewalks, outdoor cafes and unique shopping opportunities.  If the currently proposed developments move forward, the circulation within the City will continue to deteriorate.

5.  To be a smart, connected and sustainable community

It is incumbent upon the City to make sure that our resources and facilities are adequate for the current population before allowing more growth. It is absolutely vital that sustainable technologies become part of the City’s energy plan as it prepares for its future.

It seems clear that SMa.r.t.’s warnings have fallen on the deaf ears of this city council, as we see one large project after another approved and under construction. It is time to replace the current council members, and with five of the seven seats up for election this November we need to wipe the slate clean. Phil Brock and Mario Fonda-Bonardi have been a part of SMa.r.t. for the past seven years, and as such, SMa.r.t. endorses Phil, Mario, Christine Parra, and Oscar de la Torre, to replace the four council-appointed incumbents. SMa.r.t. proudly joins neighborhood organizations, and SMCLC (Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City) in this important effort to bring our city government back into responsible focus, and we do so by supporting Mario, Oscar, Christine and Phil for City Council..

Phil Brock: “I have had enough of the lack of listening and responding to the needs of our residents by this City Council. It’s time for a change! As a lifelong resident of Santa Monica, we must restore its soul. I am an independent voice with decades of experience in our town.

I am committed to reducing crime, restoring public safety, and using common sense in governing Santa Monica. Growth must always be slow and responsible without negative impacts on our community, or it will receive a NO vote from me every time.

Oscar de la Torre:  “The City of Santa Monica needs a champion on City Council who cares about local businesses, homeowners, and renters alike.

As a lifelong resident of Santa Monica,“I’m running for City Council to restore public trust in our government by restoring public safety to our streets!” and I have spent decades advocatingfor the disadvantaged youth of our city. He is a father, 18-year member of the SMMUSDBoard of Education and Chair of the Pico Neighborhood Association.

Christine Parra: “It’s time for CHANGE in Santa Monica. If elected, I will bring to the City Council a commitment to the residents that goes beyond lip service. 

I will bring the experience I have gained as a career public servant working in fire safety and emergency preparedness. I know how to balance a budget.  My educational background in City Planning equips me to understand the complexities of zoning and city planning”.

Mario Fonda-Bonardi:  A 40-year-resident, architect, and a City Planning Commissioner, Mario is intimately familiar with the workings of our City government. He supports responsible development that recognizes the impact of limited water and infrastructure, and a beach community that is going to be facing a rising sea level and its subsequent impact on our environment.  

The One commissioner, vs. 6, that is looking out for residents and voted against the Miramar. 

He has fought for historic preservation, adaptive re-use, and increased open space for our residents.

Join with SMa.r.t. in our support for Christine, Mario, Phil and Oscar for City Council, andvote for A CLEAN SLATE this November.  

Bob Taylor, Architect, AIA

for SMa.r.t  

(Santa Monica Architects for a Responsible Tomorrow)

Ron Goldman, Architect FAIA; Dan Jansenson, Architect, Building & Fire-Life Safety Commissioner; Robert H. Taylor, Architect AIA: Thane Roberts, Architect; Mario Fonda-Bonardi, Architect AIA, Planning Commissioner; Sam Tolkin, Architect; Phil Brock, Arts Commissioner

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

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