LUCE: More Questions Than Answers
A line from “The Misfits” is apropos: “If it weren’t for nervous people, people would still be eating each other.”
If Santa Monica residents aren’t sufficiently nervous about City Hall’s long-overdue revision of the land use and circulation elements of the General Plan (LUCE) to demand significant changes in it, we can all look forward to the reduction of this gloriously idiosyncratic beach town to a mere money mill,
From the beginning, in 2004, residents and CityHall have been at odds over LUCE. Still reeling from the explosion of commercial development – over 9 million square feet in two-plus decades, residents wanted LESS, but City Hall doesn’t believe in less.
A seismic shift had occurred as Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights secured its grip on the City machinery. The town had always been the main thing, but, on SMRR’s watch, City Hall has become the main thing, and its top priority is increasing its own revenue.
It was in this crass climate that City staff and a fleet of uber-consultants conjured the planning nightmare that is LUCE.
City staff enjoys saying that “thousands” of residents have taken part in their community workshops. But residents who have attended said workshops report that not only were the sessions “rigged,” but the majority of the participants were City staff, architects, developers and other people with financial interests in the outcome.
The flaws in the LUCE, based on the material we’ve seen so far, are serious, as they derive from conventional bureaucratic assumptions: grow or die, economics trumps aesthetics, new eclipses old, and so on.
In short, City Hall sees Santa Monica as a stage set, which it can change at will. That addled view seems to be the basis for the LUCE revision.
In fact, it’s a complex place, made by its location on the ocean, weather, layers of history, a lush landscape, an endless procession of iconoclasts, lucid light, and oceanic air. In Santa Monica, palm trees outgrow the flimsy soil in which they’re set.
It was, with Malibu, the epicenter of surfing, and ground zero for the Z-boys.
Four World Cruisers, 50,000 DC airplanes and one flying car were built here.
All of that, and more, is in Santa Monica’s bones. None of it’s in LUCE.
Conventional assumptions simply don’t work here, which accounts for the flaws in the LUCE.
It conveys no sense of place, or the whole, but divides it into discrete parts.
Downtown Santa Monica, which has suffered major planning insults in recent years (see LIGHTS OUT below), the “hospital district,” or the blob that ate midtown Santa Monica, and the Civic Center, which makes chaos seem attractive, are very large, centrally located and integral to the city. If they don’t work, the city won’t work, but, inexplicably, they have been excluded from the LUCE process.
Apparently, a specific plan will be developed for each of the three after the LUCE revision is complete. But the revision won’t be complete until these three key areas are included. So, after waiting four years for the LUCE, we will only see the LU–,
Other flawed pieces of the puzzle that is being sold as a plan are called “activity centers.” No hoops, chess boards or karate classes here. The principal “activity” is large scale massed commercial developments. Located on the so-called connnercial and/or transit corridors, they would displace loose arrangements of existing free-standing, one or two- story cafes, stores and shops with clusters of massive five and six-story buildings. These tall, heavy commercial installations will fracture the townscape, cast long, noisy shadows across residential neighbors and play havoc with existing businesses.
Members of the Wilshire-Montana Neighborhood Organization, on being shown plans for an activity center at Wilshire and 14th , gave it a definite thumbs down. That’s the only rational response. The sole beneficiary is City
Hall. Its drive for new commercial development and the revenue it generates has caused most of Santa Monica’s most serious problems.
A draft of the LUCE will be presented to the City Council on Tuesday, November 24.
City staff will begin the Environmental Impact Report process later this month, and the draft LUCE will be reviewed by various City boards and commissions, before the November 24th Council meeting.
Check the City website for the times, dates, and places of the various meetings.
The official LUCE site is http://shapethefuture2025.net/
Read the draft LUCE, attend some or all of the meetings. Speak up. Bad or good, it’ll be the rule for the next 14 years.
(to be continued)
Note: Arthur Miller wrote “The Misfits,”