Will this new column Room for a View by Urban Sense be insightful, or more urban nonsense? I hope you will honestly critique the body of work you have overseen these past years.

You establish your authority with positions on the Planning Commission, Architectural Review Board, Santa Monica Conservancy, committee work with American Institute of Architects, and 32- to 41-year  residencies. You list your background but choose not to disclose if your clients are the same developers who are pillaging our city.

I have not served on the Planning Commission or Architectural Review Board, but do have 50 years of architectural and planning experience with multi-family residential, retail and office work, with half my clients developers, along with 22 of my own development projects, and 15 years heading my own construction company, for which we received many national and international design awards. I’m only a 20-year resident, and not yet understanding the positive aspects of maximum density, robotic facadomy and almost total lack of open space.

In your introductory column (“Providing clarity on land use issues,” Room for a View, June 5), you wrote, “[C]hange can be both exciting and fearful. This depends, in part, on how change is managed. Change will and does occur, whether we embrace it or not.” I’m sure you recognize this is an intelligent community who would accept responsible change that is well managed.

You also mention that based on local experience and wisdom garnered from careers in Santa Monica, that you wish to open a larger conversation than is taking place, one that encompasses complexity rather than being single issue oriented. I beg to differ. Community reaction has not been a single issue. I and others have raised concerns and offered a range of suggestions regarding density, design, open space, light and air, community benefits, development agreements, traffic, economics, affordable housing, sustainability, area plans and infrastructure, etc. To say the discussion has been a single issue is wrong. Collectively they represent a disturbing range of issues.

Would you explain in upcoming columns:

a) Why does the planning staff, Planning Commission and Architectural Review Board continually support developer-inspired designs with max 2.5 densities without asking for designs with less than maximum density allowed?

b) There is rampant development without walkability, green connections and ground-level open space, which the Land Use & Circulation Element poetically describes, but is pathetically ignored. Why doesn’t the code require and/or staff demand it? With your collective years of residency, do you understand that a big part of the ethos of this city is the charm of its residential and commercial courtyards?

c) Why include a landscape “expert” when there are no setbacks to be landscaped and where parking meters have become new trees of choice?

d) With your work on these commissions, do you take any responsibility in creating the mess Santa Monica finds itself? Can you look back over the body of work you critiqued and say in good faith it’s been a job well done?

If you end up just representing developer clients and the Chamber of Commerce, it will be a sad day for the profession. I look forward to being enlightened, whether over coffee or in the press.

On a brighter note, the proposed Wyndham Hotel with its curved design is a step — actually two steps — in the right direction. It represents a design worthy of consideration for Downtown. Miramar should take note!

 

Ron Goldman

Santa Monica