CIVIC CENTER — It’s a phrase that’s frequently been brought up during previous workshops for the Land Use and Circulation Element (LUCE), one presented in concept yet undefined.
On Tuesday, residents got their chance to voice what they believe should be community benefits to result from future developments in the city, favoring ideas such as neighborhood-serving retail, workforce housing and transit improvements.
The walls of the Civic Auditorium were lined with posters representing each of Santa Monica’s major commercial and industrial areas, all splashed with colorful dot stickers that residents placed next to photos illustrating a suggested community benefit. Next to the photos were rows of sticky notes on which residents wrote comments about additional priorities, whether it be historic preservation or wider sidewalks. One note stated that there needed to be “better bike connectivity to Downtown, (and) beach.”
Standing before the board for Wilshire/Santa Monica was Ellen Hannan, a 39-year-resident who came to the meeting to learn more about the LUCE, an update to the city’s general plan, which will dictate development in the city for the next 20 years or more.
Hannan said she would like to see more parks come with new developments, broader sidewalks and more public resources within buildings, such as a police substation or small medical clinic.
“There’s been no community benefits to date,” Hanna said.
Carol Lemlein came to the meeting to try and understand how development she believes is implied in the LUCE can be absorbed while maintaining the quality of life in the city. The president of the Santa Monica Conservancy, Lemlein added that she is also hoping to start a discussion on adding incentives to encourage property owners to preserve historic structures.
She said that the city also needs more neighborhood serving retail and workforce housing.
“We need workforce housing so fewer people feel they need to get in their cars to go to their jobs,” she said.
The meeting was billed as being one of the most important to date in the development of the LUCE because of its emphasis on giving residents the opportunity to define what they see as community benefits. Residents in the past have said they would like to see the general plan preserve neighborhoods, maintain the unique beach community character, and alleviate congestion in the city.
Only a handful of areas could see changes, most of which will be concentrated around Bergamot Station, which will be one of the stops for the Exposition Light Rail, and the hospital district. Some areas like Wilshire Boulevard and 14th Street are planned for a proposed activities center, a concept that has seen resistance from residents.
The Wilshire-Montana Neighborhood Coalition recently voted to oppose the project, which creates a one-stop amenities area, during its annual meeting last month.
Eileen Fogarty, the planning and community development director for City Hall, promised that the actual creation of centers will not come as a surprise.
“Activities centers are not going to just pop up,” Fogarty said. “That is going to be a very public process.”
Bob Odermatt, a consultant with the Odermatt Group, said that there are about 9,500 households who live within half a mile of the proposed activity center at Wilshire and 14th.
City officials said they were also developing a system that would evaluate whether growth is on track with the LUCE. The model would look at various indicators, including the rate and amount of change.
The meeting was among the most well attended, drawing more than 125 people, all equipped with sticky notes and competing for space around the six posters that were set up along the auditorium.
During the meeting, residents were also asked to spend about half an hour going through the various posters and providing their input on community benefits.
Ruben Pacheco, a volunteer at the Pico Youth and Family Center, spent several minutes attaching notes onto the board for Downtown, prioritizing social services and affordable housing.
He said the latter is especially needed because he believes that low-income families are “weeded” out of the city with expensive rents.
“If the (developers) benefit from this, they should give back to the community,” he said.