To the City Council, commissioners and city staff,
Winston Churchill simply described “civilization” as the subordination of the ruling class to the will of the people.
In this regard, the development agreement process has been more like a game of monopoly than one of environmental and urban planning for the benefit of the community. What‚Äôs been proposed and supported to date is going in the wrong direction. (Will it take rallies and bonfires of the 1960s free speech movement to turn city management around?)
It‚Äôs the job and responsibility of the city manager, along with the planning director and his staff, to carry out the Land Use and Circulation Element (LUCE) reached over three years of public participation. And hopefully staff will also have the foresight to produce a truly creative zoning ordinance for Downtown and not yet another business-as-usual exercise.
But developers, along with support of city staff and economic consultants, say that projects with community benefits can only proceed if they are built to or over maximum limits ‚Äî and to that I say a loud BS! I suggest that planning staff spend less time on fancy rhetoric, lengthy reports and biased economic studies and more time understanding and requiring quality urban design. If city staff, commissions and council are not capable of carrying out the LUCE mandate, then there needs to be a wholesale change in thinking.
Last week, yet another development agreement was approved building lot line to lot line with the only slightest nod to open space being a 3-foot widening of the sidewalk with the building overhanging above. To trade for two additional affordable units and ignore quality design and environment when you can easily have both doesn‚Äôt make sense.
What happened with the overly dense Village Trailer Park approval is worse than abysmal and what is happening piece by piece around Santa Monica also represents a huge lost opportunity.
The city manager, planning department, City Council and commissions, along with developers and attorneys need to understand that being “business friendly” is, over time, not the greatest density, but is instead the greatest environment.
Submitting to developer pressure is tantamount to white collar crime. Santa Monica is a wonderful community, and everyone including the development community will benefit if it is not plundered. As an architect, urban planner and developer of multi-family and commercial projects, it is a shame to see what‚Äôs happening in this city. It‚Äôs time for staff and the City Council to wake up and help create something we all can be proud of. Time to create a Downtown that is truly special and distinctive. Shame on all of you if you lose this opportunity.