In Friday’s Community Briefs you printed Assemblyman Richard Bloom response to City Council rescinding its approval of the Hines project (“Richard Bloom criticizes Hines decision”). In his response, Bloom characterizes the effort by residents to bring democracy, or “residocracy,” into the decision-making process as “fear-mongering” that has “left our city with a black eye.” Actually, it was former Mayor Richard Bloom’s own NIMBY, Not In My Back Yard, fear-mongering and that of other City Council members that stopped city staff years ago from exploring and developing plans to provide parking for people from our region whose tax dollars paid the light-rail Expo for whom it was built. It is this kind of selfish, short-sighted thinking that has given our city a black eye.
Rather than build underground parking that could be accessed directly from the freeway ramp at Cloverfield and 26th Street, allowing cars to park for the Expo without needing to enter the streets of Santa Monica, those on the City Council who were aligned with Richard Bloom’s approach to development, instead, advanced the Hines 26th Street Project that would bring cars onto our streets to park at a mixed-use commercial center designed to keep people from traveling to other parts of the city. Allowing Hines to build a lot for its own project would have worked against developing a circulation plan that could make the Expo stop at 26th and Olympic a major hub for public transportation taking people to all parts of Santa Monica.
Richard Bloom and his allies are the ones using fear-mongering to change our priorities. Here is the narrative used to justify outrageous development: With redevelopment money gone, Santa Monica lacks the funds to build parks and develop a world-class Santa Monica-centric circulation plan to advance the growth of green-space, commerce, and culture that residents and local businesses want throughout our community. That is why the city must turn to developers whose projects have enough height and density to guarantee banks and investors a quick, significant return. According to Richard Bloom, the city approving such projects could bring “significant community benefits to Santa Monica, not the least of which are badly needed housing stock, including deed restricted affordable housing.”
This narrative has not dissuaded those who signed the referendum to halt the Hines Project. Many of these Santa Monica residents favor a multi-modal transportation plan that encourages people to explore public transportation and other alternatives as they transition themselves from dependence on cars as their sole source of transportation. Their vision is not obscured by tall buildings or by delusions of grandeur. Growth would be the natural consequence, increased circulation, provided that Santa Monica does not lose its authenticity. Last week, Santa Monica Architects for a Responsible Tomorrow (SM a.r.t.) put it this way: Santa Monica’s “relaxed, seaside character and human scale plays in an important role in its allure.” The Santa Monica Pier, an icon recognized around the world, represents that authenticity and speaks to its allure.
Residents opposed the Hines project because it threatened to undermine our authenticity and would have prevented us from developing an equitable circulation plan to promote commercial and cultural growth citywide while reducing traffic and helping Los Angeles to lower the emission of greenhouse gases, which would benefit everyone’s health and well-being. We hope, by scrapping the Hines project and other land-use projects like that, we can clear the road so we might focus on developing a citywide circulation plan that would promote natural growth.