Wilmont Says NO, we Say BRAVO!

Team LUCE hit the road recently to plump for its proposed “activity center” at  Wilshire and 14th Street at the annual meeting of the Wilshire-Montana neighborhood organization (Wilmont.)

According to a story in the Santa Monica Mirror, the proposed  “activity center (is) a pedestrian-friendly area with new buildings featuring ground floor retail and housing above…

“City Planning Director Eileen Fogerty gave a presentation about the concept of activity centers as they fit into the City’s update of   the Land Use and Circulation Elements of the General Plan
(LUCE). The Wilshire activity center will have shared underground parking, wider sidewalks, green medians, and a focus on residential building, transitioning away from what Fogerty termed ‘a hostile environment’ for pedestrians. As with other projects in the LUCE plan, taller buildings would be allowed if public benefits (such as family-oriented shopping like grocery stores) were included in the structures.”

Members of team LUCE, on this occasion, were City Councilman Kevin McKeown, Planning Commission member Ted Winterer, former Planning Commissioner and Surf Santa Monica columnist  and Fogerty.

74 percent of Wilmont residents opposed the activity center plan. ce an Ad Call:

Bravo, Wilmont! Once again, residents saw through the busy work larded with braggadocio that LUCE is.

Indeed, anyone who knows anything about Santa Monica is bound to find  LUCE wanting in  every respect.

First, “activity center” is one of  those vague, meaningless phrases  that could be attached to anything from the Y to a pretentious gas station to a room in a library. In this instance, it is a stand-in for a hyper-commercial development.

Second, the intersection at Wilshire and 14th is already fully developed. There’s a tall one-story bank on one corner, a tall one story Rite Aid on another corner, a tall one-story Von’s just west of Rite-Aid and conventional one-story stores on the other two corners.

The City wants to replace the  Rite Aid and Von’s tall one-story buildings with six-story mixed-use use buildings  – with stores on the first floors and housing on the upper stories, and underground parking.

Can the planners say “adaptive reuse?”

Does the City have any idea how costly, long, noisy, dirty and pointless such wholesale redevelopment  would be, and how much turmoil residents living nearby would have to endure?

Third,  the Wilshire activity center would have “shared parking, wider sidewalks,  green medians, a focus on residential housing, transitioning away from…a hostile  environment for pedestrians.” I assume the planners are referring here to the Wilshire facades of Rite Aid and Von’s. No question, they aren’t entertaining, but I have yet to find anyone who expects, much less wants more entertaining buildings. After all, we already have more than our share of bad jokes of buildings. And if the City installs wider sidewalks and green medians, the primary feature of the new activity center  will be snarled traffic.

Fourth, team LUCE would allow taller buildings if they contained    “such public benefits” as “family-oriented shopping, like grocery  stores.”

THE THING IS…the thing is, right now, the existing buildings offer  nothing but “family-oriented shopping,” including a very large grocery store. HERE. NOW. IN PLACE. DONE.

Why would  the City allow developers to build much taller, more massive buildings to bring us services we already have?

Finally, there’s plenty of activity on  Wilshire Boulevard now – small cafes,  prestigious restaurants, all the usual and some unusual goods and services,  grocery stores, car dealers, and so on. In fact, LUCE’s proposed  “activity centers” are really uber-growth centers that will
Further fracture our townscape.

The Mirror quoted Fogerty as saying, “The option is not doing nothing. Do we keep the existing general plan? Or do we do something different…and make sure it provides what we need?”

Actually, in this instance,  the option IS doing nothing – especially when everything team LUCE proposes already exists and the   “problems” it cites – such as the  “hostile” pedestrian environment – are products of wishful thinking, not thoughtful analysis.

Do we want to keep the existing  general plan? Hell, no. It was never very good and it’s been obsolete since the mid-1990s.

Do we want something different? Absolutely not. We want a general plan  that reflects and preserves the character and integrity  of this idiosyncratic beach town, its unique sense of  place and its scale.

Can we trust City Hall to “provide us with what we need?” No. There is not an iota of evidence in all the planning documents to indicate that City Hall knows what we need or  any interest in providing it. The unfortunate truth is that City Hall has its own agenda, and it’s at odds with our needs.

Thus far, the City has spent five years and nobody knows how much money on a revision of the General Plan that tosses a few crumbs to residents but would work on this legendary beach town like a cyclone – unless we all follow Wilmont’s example and just say NO.

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