What makes downtown Santa Monica unique?
What kind of downtown do we want? What is
our vision for its future? Every city needs
a “raison d’etre” – a spirit that draws
people to go there and stay there. Will
it remain a relaxed and friendly coastal
community, with the warmth of local mer-
chants, or a mix of corporate high-rise
buildings and bloated developments, tran-
sformed by consumerism and glitz into
something we won’t recognize?
When you allow developers to design your
city, it’s all about the bottom line. A
“window of opportunity” in the form of
“Development Agreements” has opened up
for developers to present projects that
exceed current allowable heights and den-
sity. Do we want a downtown that is an
a wall of massive buildings, or will the
citizens of Santa Monica become involved
with the future vision and essence of
their downtown? We all need to take act-
ion to make sure that the future Santa
Monica reflects the ideals of its citi-
zens, not just the developers.

In other words, how do we Santa Monicans
bridge our past and our future?

To answer this, we need to understand how
the heart of our city grew. Like other
cities, Santa Monica’s basic downtown
developed as a grid of linear streets at-
tuned to the introduction of the automobile,
with small buildings primarily housing
local businesses. Santa Monica’s downtown
is awash with warm weather and sunlight,
and extraordinary visual landmarks -its
pier, palisades and ocean, its weather
and sunlight, its promenade and farmers’
markets, all on a very human scale. Small
local businesses still exist in our down-
town, although they are quickly disappear-
ing, along with the character and texture
of unique building designs, being replaced
by national chains lacking unique character.
Downtown Santa Monica encompasses approx-
imately 12 million square feet that has
grown over a 138-year history. Seventy
percent of the buildings in this area are
one to two stories high. Currently the at-
mosphere is a relaxed beach culture, a walk
able environment, a human scale, blue skies
and sunlight. With the remarkable success
enjoyed by the existing downtown, we need
to build on what works rather than overdeve=
lop – we need to add the new without taking
away from the old.

However what is currently happening has the
potential to change forever the “sense of
place” that is Santa Monica. More than 30
new building projects for are in the pipe-
line to be approved by the city. These pro-
jects could add 3 million square feet of
new residential, office and retail space
to our downtown. That’s a lot of develop-
ment for any city, let alone a smaller
scale city like Santa Monica, and that’s
just the beginning. The proposed zoning code
will allow another 9 million square feet
beyond that – effectively doubling the cur-
rent size of our downtown.

The current LUCE, which is a written plan
envisioned for the city by citizens and
city commissioners every 20 years, calls
for “the preservation of the vibrant,
beach town atmosphere.” So how do we keep
our downtown colorful, vibrant, and pedes-
trian-friendly while allowing for growth
and keeping the city economically healthy?
How do we enjoy the benefits of the city –
the cafes, art galleries and cultural fac-
ilities without the traffic, crowding and
pollution? We need to act fast to save the
face of our city.

Charleston and Savannah are communities
that have been able to strike this balance.
They have realized substantial growth in
the past two decades, but have held onto
their history and sense of place. Their
downtowns, similar in area to Santa Mon-
ica, are flourishing with creative ideas
for keeping open, spacious green areas
bordered by a mix of historic and modern
buildings. Santa Barbara and Pasadena,
two California cities, have found the ba-
lance as well. In these downtowns you can
experience wide, decorative passageways
and arcades, filled with people, small
shops, and café seating, between low-rise

In contrast, the type of 6-7 story build-
ings that have recently been constructed
in Santa Monica will turn our city streets
into darkened canyons with loss of charac-
ter, sunlight, and blue sky if we allow
them to proliferate. Proposed height all-
owances and zoning code changes will turn
our warm beachfront downtown into an indif-
ferent and solidly urban downtown, if we
don’t take action. Remember, dense traffic-
filled cities are expensive cities, bring-
ing increased cost of living, higher
a terrible strain on the infrastructure
that our city taxes support.

But there is hope for Santa Monica. The
LUCE “provides for an overall reduction
in building height.” In last week’s article,
we strongly suggested doing away with the
Development Agreement process in favor of
an overall 50 foot, 4-story height limit
in the downtown. Thus, potential develo-
pers would know up front, before purchas-
ing a property and spending years on a
design, what their parameters are. With
these new limitations, there would still
be ample opportunity for sustainable
growth: up to 6 million square feet of
space could be developed.

This would be a victory for both the resi-
dential community and the business commun-
ity. With height and density reduced, traf-
fic and the strain on the city’s infrast-
ructurewould also be reduced, resulting
in more open space and thus a more posi-
tive quality of life for Santa Monica’s
residents. Lively, enjoyable public spaces
are more important than buildings. Recre-
ation & Parks Commissioner Phil Brock has
repeatedly talked about “open space hav-
ing the power to make you feel better about
your city, to stay because you’re having
a great time – like being at a successful

We can rework the city’s zoning code to
create key open spaces and a truly excit-
ing environment. If the city adopts incen-
tives in property taxes and cuts in city
fees, then we might see a substantial in-
crease in the restoration and reuse of the
older low-rise buildings, which provide
so much character, variety, and texture
to our downtown. A recent study by the Nat-
ional Trust for Historic Preservation
states, “Neighborhoods and commercial areas
with a mix of older, smaller buildings make
for more vibrant, walk-able communities
with more businesses, nightlife and cul-
tural outlets than massive newer buildings.
People want to be where there’s an interest-
ing and exciting mix of the old and new.”

In summary, we see a future Santa Monica
with development parameters that encourage
meaningful sidewalk setbacks, pocket parks
and mid-block arcades. We see a future San-
ta Monica as a business-friendly low-rise
beachfront location with a vibrant, spont-
aneous and eclectic atmosphere where resi-
dents and visitors alike can see the sky,
feel the fresh ocean breeze and enjoy walk-
ing streets lined with smaller-scale unique
buildings with diverse designs and histories

Each of us needs to insure that City Staff,
City Council Members know the qualities that
we want to preserve in our city’s essence.

Ron Goldman FAIA for SM a.r.t. (Santa Monica
Architects for a Responsible Tomorrow)
Mario Fonda-Bonardi AIA, Ron Goldman FAIA,
Bob Taylor AIA, Dan Jansenson Architect,
Armen Melkonians P.E., Sam Tolkin Architect,
Thane Roberts AIA, Phil Brock Recreation &
Parks Commission. This is the fourth article
in a SMDP series by SMa.r.t., a group of
Santa Monica Architects concerned about the
city’s future. For previous articles, please


Not just another data meeting, the Committee
For Racial Justice’s June 1st workshop will
examine the report from the Cradle to Career
(SMC2C) initiative, a cooperative effort of
the City of Santa Monica, the Santa Monica/
Malibu Unified School District, and Santa
Monica College.

Natasha Guest Kingscote, a Senior Adminis-
trative Analyst in the City of Santa Monica’s
Community and Cultural Services Department,
will discuss three topics: 2014 Youth Well-
being Report Card (a brief general overview),
demonstrate the Youth Portal, a website ser-
vices finder,and the interactive data site.

Terry DeLoria, Assistant District Superinten-
eent of Educational Services, will represent
the District and focus on The Achievement Gap.

People who have Smartphones or Ipads should
bring them along and learn “hands on” how
to access the new interactive information
site (constructive feedback will be welcome).
People will also have an opportunity to dis-
cuss how our young people of color are doing,
the specific challenges they face, what the
District is doing about it, and what actions
students, parents, and the community can take
to help. Committee members have emphasized
that “you can make a difference.”

The workshop is part of an ongoing monthly
workshop series sponsored by the Committee
For Racial Justice in conjunction with the
African American Parent, Student, Staff Su-
pport Group (AAPSSSG), Virginia Ave. Park,
and Church in Ocean Park.

The workshop is from 6 to 8:30pm (potluck
supper at 6 and program starting at 6:30pm),
on Sunday, June 1st, at Virginia Avenue
Park, Thelma Terry Building, 2200 Virginia
Avenue, Santa Monica (served by Big Blue
Bus lines #7 and #11).
For more information call 310-422-5431


Come to our first ever
Community Victory Barbecue Celebration!

Saturday – May 31, (12:00 noon – 3:00 pm)
at Clover Park, (Ocean Park and 25th Street)

Come and celebrate the success of the Hines
Referendum with a free summer barbecue. Bring
the kids too – It’s time to celebrate as a
an entire community

(open to all)

Please RSVP to


WCLA & Feminist Majority Foundation/Ms. Mag-
azine and the Women’s Writer Series present
a poetry reading with Eloise Klein Healy and
friends — Nicelle Davis, Jenny Factor, Kate
Gale, Robin Coste Lewis, Jessica Piazza, Ver-
onica Reyes and Terry Wolverton on Saturday,
May 31, at 2 pm. 433 South Beverly Drive, Be-
verly Hills,

Eloise Klein Healy, first Poet Laureate for
the City of Los Angeles, is the author of se-
ven books of poetry and three spoken word re-

Her most recent book, “A Wild Surmise: New &
Selected Poems & Recordings,” is a finalist
for the Lambda Literary Award in Poetry. She
was the founding chair of the MFA in Creative
Writing Program at Antioch University Los
Angeles where she is Distinguished Professor

Healy directed the Women’s Studies program
at CSU Northridge, taught in the Feminist
Studio Workshop at The Woman’s Building in
Los Angeles, and is the founding editor of
Arktoi Books, an imprint of Red Hen Press,
specializing in the work of lesbian authors.

The Women Writers Series benefits the Women’s
Center of Los Angeles (WCLA), a non-profit or-
ganization that provides community and guid-
ance that empowers women and girls to develop
“the knowledge, self-confidence and life-skills
they need to reach their full potential and

Admission: $10-$50 Donations at door CASH or
CHECKS ONLY at door No one turned away for
lack of funds

Purchase Tickets:
If unable to attend, please consider making

Reservations: Call 310-556-2500 Please leave
your name and email address WCLA Contact:
Simone Wallace
Women’s Center of Los Angeles | P.O. Box 66016
Los Angeles, CA 90066


There is word that Former Microsoft CEO Steve
Balmer has bought the Clippers NBA basketball
franchise for $2 billion. Shelley Sterling,
wife of team owner Donald Sterling, represent-
ed him at the sale, which was ordered by and
now must be approved by NBA officials. They
are scheduled to meet Tuesday.

The sale was ordered after Sterling made some
racist remarks and they were made public. Once
exposed, Sterling was forbidden from having
anything to do with the Clippers and the NBA.

Now if Balmer, or someone else, would buy
Sterling’s Santa Monica apartment build-
ings this ugly story might have a happy end-