Reading and listening to the city staff these days is tantamount to theatre of the absurd.
In the Santa Monica Daily Press article of July 7, Ashley Archibald raises the question, “should projects be informing the plan, or should it be a one-way street?” The planning director’s response is, “We were trying to move things along and make sure that projects were informed by the plan. I think we’ve been able to do that, and the projects that come forward will be consistent with the area plan.”
What a disingenuous statement! The Bergamot plan early on suggested a 2.5 density and five stories along Nebraska Avenue and terracing to a 2.0 density and three stories at Colorado Avenue, where transitioning to one- and two-story existing residential. So what does staff so eloquently support — a massive East Village Project at Colorado with a 2.8 density and five-story buildings for a 40 percent increase in density and 67 percent increase in height! The city deserves much better.
And then there’s the city manager’s double speak on why the Downtown height and density discussion was going to bypass the Planning Commission. [The City Council passed on approving the Downtown Specific Plan, giving the commission a chance to discuss it.] “The commission will get the opportunity to see the plan in its entirety when the draft is finished” and “the information that flows from the environmental review process will help with drafting the plan that goes to the commission.” And in verbal conversation he expresses that the city needs to be forward thinking, a city of the future and not the past. Mr. Gould, good design, good environment, and quality of life all translate into good economics. Maximum density and poor to mediocre design is definitely not good economics. And good city planning is apparently not your expertise and should be left to others. The city deserves much better.
And then there’s the Downtown plan’s project manager who says to the council that staff is beginning to get a picture of the architecture emerging in the Downtown. Whoa. Something this obvious over the last six to eight years and you’re just beginning to get the picture of maximum density, minimum open space and landscape, robotic facadomy, continuous building walls, etc. It’s pretty clear staff is going to school on our dollar. And then to hear her uncomfortably explaining in the July 8 council meeting that three different heights couldn’t be easily or economically plugged into their expensive modeling program also causes one’s head to shake in disbelief. The buildings and trees in the entire city of Santa Monica are already modeled in 3D on Google Earth where one could easily drop in alternative block heights. The city deserves much better.
It’s really so unbelievable what’s happening in City Hall — there’s little question that stakeholders, developers and their attorneys rule the roost. To quote the Downtown Specific Plan’s project manager, “The train hasn’t yet left the station.” Although it hasn’t already left, I think we can all envision a train wreck when it does. Handled correctly, this can be a city of the future with a quality of life and an economic vitality that both stakeholders and residents can be proud of. Santa Monica deserves a whole lot better and hopefully soon.