We Were Just Wondering…

A working group, City Council and staff members, consultants, Bayside District officials, and property and business owners have labored on and discussed a new “management plan” for downtown Santa Monica for what seems an eon, but has only been a year or so.

But, according to a recent story by Jorge Casuso in SurfSantaMonica, a few “key points, including the makeup of the new board that will run the agreed proposed assessment district” have been resolved.

Casuso quoted consultant Brad Segal of Progressive Urban Management Associates as saying, “This was huge… Governance has probably been the number one issue in this deal.”

Casuso also reported that, among other things, the new board will oversee the expenditure of $3,7 million in new assessments on “improvements.”

The largest portion of the assessments will be paid by the district’s leading property owners.

According to the story, among the “improvements” are a $1.3 million “ambassador program to inform visitors and help keep the streets safe and $500,000 in additional marketing.”

The proposed district is bounded by Ocean Avenue, Wilshire Boulevard, the east side of Seventh Street, and the 10 Freeway.

Under the proposed plan, assessments would be based on the property’s size, location and type of use, ranging from 88 cents a square foot on the Promenade to 22 cents a square foot on Seventh Street.

According to Casuso, the new 11-member board will be comprised of six people named by the Council, six by the property owners and one by the City Manager.

That doesn’t add up, but neither does much else about this plan.

According to the City, Santa Monica’s daily transient population is now 300,000 on week days and 500,000 on weekends, which is a principal cause of the gridlock that plagues us.

In addition, as the New York Times recently reported (see Feb. 13 story below) that an REIT based in Rockville, Maryland that owns most of the buildings on the two northernmost blocks on the Promenade had seen its rents rise from $20 to $25 a square foot in 1996 to $220 today, with tenants lining up for space in 2010 and 2011.

With Santa Monica’s transient density surpassing Manhattan’s, its streets in gridlock and rents heading for the moon, why are the people in charge contemplating the investment of $500,000 in “marketing?”

And why is City Hall, in effect, handing the fate of downtown Santa Monica over to a handful of people whose interests are primarily commercial?

And don’t we lose more local independent businesses to chain Stores with every round of rent Increases?

And isn’t the notion of a semi-autonomous commercial city inside Santa Monica rather feudal?

And isn’t this precisely the sort of spot planning that has made City Hall a leader in the unintended consequences sweepstakes?

Isn’t the real problem that the City’s extreme inflation of Third Street has thrown downtown Santa Monica out of balance?.

We were just wondering.

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