Our Town, Our Call

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At frequent intervals, during discussions of the revision of the land use and circulation elements of the General Plan (LUCE), the City’s Planning Director, Eileen Fogerty, notes that our residential  neighborhoods, which amounts to 94 percent of Santa Monica, ,  will not be revised.

As Hemingway said, in another context, “Wouldn’t it be nice to think so?”

In fact, every alteration in the business and commercial areas of the city is felt in the neighborhoods.

This continuing perturbation has accelerated as City Hall’s ambitions have grown.

An extreme example of a so-called  improvement in the business area causing serious problems in  residential neighborhoods

occurred when the City’s brand-new luxe office district triggered the traffic tsunami that swamped the freeway, the Pico Neighborhood and Sunset Park, and has grown worse every year.

But that pales when compared to what’s now in the works.

City Hall’s exploding  commercial/municipal development policies, as limned in LUCE, and  already underway, are already ricocheting through the allegedly sacrosanct residential neighborhoods with lethal force.

What we need in LUCE is a restoration plan for repairing the damage done in the last two decades. What we’ve got is a bulldozer.

28th Street becomes Stewart Street at Pico, runs under the freeway  and north to Colorado, linking Sunset Park, the Pico Neighborhood and the Mid-City neighborhood. Now it’s ground zero  in the latest and largest commercial/municipal assault.

The  City has ignored residents’ objections and okayed the installation of the Expo Light Rail maintenance yard at Stewart and Exposition Boulevard ––

literally in the midst of a pleasant residential neighborhood.

City Hall is also proceeding with its long-simmering plan to expand its recycling and maintenance yards from Cloverfield to Stewart.

Richland, a Texas-based company, has leased 30 acres at 1800 Stewart from the City on which it plans to  build a medical research facility and a 300-unit housing complex.

Santa Monica College recently opened its new $40 million theater complex at 11th and Santa Monica Boulevard. Now it wants to build another theater, with parking for 600 cars, at its

Arts and Entertainment Technology campus on Stewart Street.

Lionsgate Films will present its plans for its new offices at Stewart and Colorado to the the Planning Commission in  February.

And last week we learned that Hines, a Texas-based developer, is making plans, in concert with the City, to  build the Bergamot Transit Village Center on Olympic  between 26th and Stewart. It will combine offices, housing  and retail in a one million square foot complex

If all these projects go forward, Stewart Street, between the freeway overpass and Colorado will  soon be “enhanced” by two maintenance yards, a research facility, nearly 700 new apartments, hundreds of new offices, a theater, a film company HQ and a huge “village.”

This isn’t planning. It’s lunacy. It takes “mixed use”

to a whole new level, shatters the existing residential neighborhood  and compounds the traffic problems suffered by Sunset Park and Mid-City residents.

And that’s just the beginning.

Three large projects have bcen proposed for the area between Stewart and Stanford on Colorado in what is now a residential neighborhood with tree-lined streets and fine old houses and apartment buildings.

What was Drescherville, a grandly eccentric  gathering of small artists’ studios, between Olympic and Nebraska is the site chosen by a developer who wants to build over 1,000 SROs (single rooms about the size of a parking space).

And as we have previously reported, just across Centinela, in West L.A.,  developer is planning the  1.3 million square foot Olympic Village and “Medical Park” at Bundy and Olympic.

This misbegot package of mega-projects wil not make Santa Monica a better town or fill any needs. It will disrupt or destroy irreplaceable neighborhoods, such as the Village Trailer Park. It will  enlarge and extend the traffic nightmare that dominates that area. It will make a lot of money for the developers and City Hall.

But, in their excitement, the City  and the developers have got ahead of the process.

The state mandates that cities revise their General Plans every 20 years in order to ensure that citizens maintain control of their town’s destiny. In effect, it is our Constitution.

The 1984 revision expired in 2004. The draft of the 2004 revision has just been released. The Environmental Impact Report (EIR) won’t be released until next month.

Strictly speaking, as we are without a current General Plan, and the zoning that derives from it, commercial development should be on hold. The state permits cities in these circumstances to declare a moratorium on new projects. Months ago, the neighborhood organizations asked the City  to declare a moratorium. The City Attorney said it “would be difficult to craft,”

And that was that. And the  City and the developers went on talking.

But the LUCE is OUR Constitution, , not City  Hall’s, not the developers’

And it’s our town and our destiny.

Read the LUCE, the EIR, follow the Planning Commission and City   Council discussions, and, above all, speak up – unless you look forward to living in “the little city with the really big traffic jams.”

5 thoughts on “Our Town, Our Call”

  1. Is there any development that could ever be built in Santa Monica that would not make traffic??? Or should we never build again?

  2. Richard Mason toots the horn for more and more development. I wonder whose payroll he’s on. Of course everything that’s ever developed will generate traffic, so the question is how to balance the size and scale of the development so that it has minimal traffic impacts. It’s not a matter of “either” “or,” Dick.

  3. I’m not in favor of all development. I think we have way too much concentrated at this corner. However some of these developments are important for the economy and we can’t prevent any new construction. Film is a signature industry in Southern California. Do we want to alienate Lions Gate Entertainment and risk sending a growing film company out of Southern Californians to other states???? Texas, Georgia, Canada, New York, New Jersey, New Mexico and more all are providing incentives for a company like Lions Gate to leave Santa Monica.

    If we in Santa Monica refuse to work with Lions Gate and allow them to have the facilities they need the company will likely look towards places with less NIMBY’s. Does this mean we allow them to just build anything??? NO. But it also means we don’t refuse to work with them and refuse any development. Do we want to loose 800 jobs in this already struggling Southern California economy to the new boom states???

  4. Alienate Lionsgate? How about destroy one of the only two remaining no-problem low income housing areas in the City? Who does that alienate? Only the pre-World War II beginnings of the area, and all the remaining people who have lived here in some cases 50 years and more. I am a resident (and in a family that has owned a home in the Park since 1986, so we are “newcomers”) of Village Trailer Park on Colorado two lots east of the Microsoft development. Notices of closure of the Park first came over two years ago–from a new consortium of developers who intended with encouragement from the City to replace our ground-level homes in 60-year old trees with a multi-level office and studio building a la the Water Gardens a few blocks west. A week later one of our neighbors committed suicide after telling several of us he was too old to live on the sand and had nowhere else to go. Every step of this development plan has violated every concept and letter of every applicable law. Santa Monica has a duty under state law to do its share to maintain affordable housing. Changing mobile home park zoning to studio zoning hardly does that. It is a travesty to pretend to be a green city and sell out all the residents to developers.

  5. The City Council has completely lost touch with the residents of Santa Monica, While on a water-conservation drive, it permits huge density increases that use more water and power than the buildings being replaced. Large developments avoid virtually all meaningful public notice and review by including “affordable” housing under rules designed to exclude the pesky public. Light rail willnot to serve residents, and is an expensive application of 19th century technology to meet 21st century problems. LUCE’s “neighborhood activity centers” ae a euphemistic joke, and will simply make living in adjoining residential neighborhoods a nightmare.

    What this all has in common is the exploitation of SM by those profiting from development and moving on to leave us with the resulting burdens.

    NIMBY??? I think it is called “pride of ownership”. Controlling what goes into your backyard is a good thing; it is only spun negative by those seeking profit over the quality of living here.

    The City Council assumes we will squawk and meekly adjust while their financial benefactors in the develoment and business communities keep contributing. Are they right?

    We need to recall the first two council members that vote for the current LUCE. That’s how the proposed bridge across SM Bay was stopped thirty years ago. It’s time to do it again!

    In November, we also need to to replace council members with truly neighborhood-responsive people who listen.

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