The Daily Press would like to congratulate City Hall for hiring New York landscape architecture firm James Corner Field Operations to help create two parks — Palisades Garden Walk and Town Square — that will cover roughly 7 acres in the Civic Center at a cost of $25 million. The firm has developed three exciting concepts that veer far from the boring, flat, grass-dominated parks of old. These are revolutionary park designs that try to imitate nature with fluid pathways and rolling hills that spill onto the beach below.
Creating these parks is critical. We have a tremendous demand for more open space in Santa Monica. By merging with the Santa Monica High School redesign, the Civic Center will be a center for athletic activity while also providing a relaxing environment for those who want to take a stroll and enjoy the ocean breeze. If City Hall and the school district work together, there will be plenty of room for these innovative parks as well as ball fields for our youth and weekend warriors who love their soccer or flag football games.
We are not endorsing one concept over the other. We believe all three — The Arroyo Wash, Arroyo Ravine and Arroyo Dune — are all terrific designs that will provide generations of enjoyment. We encourage the public to voice their opinions and visit City Hall’s website for more information.
That said, we do believe that public safety is key. There needs to be careful consideration given to securing the area in the evenings to avoid any repeat of the persistent drug dealing that occurred in the 1990s in Palisades Park. While we don’t believe we will see crack dealers openly in the park, we must be prepared for anything. And while we encourage the council to approve a design that is more imaginative than flat grasslands, we are concerned about some of the terrain proposed being used to conceal homeless encampments, with areas quickly becoming dens of iniquity.
Perhaps we are being too extreme, however, in this context you have to be. This is most likely the last opportunity to create new open space in Santa Monica. We have to get it right and we believe City Hall will as long as residents get active and voice their opinions and preferences. With James Corner at the helm, these parks should be crown jewels.