I had breakfast a week ago with Phil Brock, chair of the Santa Monica Parks and Recreation Commission
Hanging out with Mr. Brock is always an interesting experience. He’s full of good ideas about how Santa Monica could provide a much better quality of life for residents and visitors alike.
He likes to bounce ideas off people, which is always a smart way to gauge whether they’re worth pursuing, need some tweaking or is just worthless.
We had a spirited debate about the new ordinance governing professional trainers in our parks and exchanged predictions about who will run for City Council next year. Then he asked, “What do you think about a passive park on top of Berkeley Hill at the Mt. Olivet Reservoir?”
“Are you kidding,” I asked. “It’s a great idea and long overdue.”
The Mt. Olivet Reservoir is a giant, subterranean reservoir of city drinking water covered by grass that’s currently fenced off to the public. It’s on top of Berkeley Hill bisected by Franklin Street in the city’s north-east neighborhood.
The 1.2-acre site has mostly unimpeded 360 degree views — to the Pacific on the west; the Santa Monica Mountains on the north; Westwood Village, Century City, Hollywood and downtown Los Angeles (on a clear day) eastward, and Mar Vista, Marina del Rey, LAX and Palos Verdes on the south.
The area is behind locked gates and chain link fencing for security reasons. Nevertheless, Brock would like to see part of it landscaped and maybe have a few benches installed to make it more accessible to the public.
Opening up portions of the site would mean insuring that the reservoir itself and related infrastructure is safe from tampering or misdeeds. Fencing and/or security measures are obviously needed to protect pumping equipment and access to the reservoir itself. We both feel that at least part of the site would be perfect for limited use strictly as a retreat, viewing area or meditation zone.
I’ve been on Berkeley Hill many times. The present vacant lot is a tragic waste of space and an unused amenity. Currently, visitors are prevented from fully enjoying one of the Westside’s most stunning views unless they stand in the street. I’ve often wondered why someone hadn’t come forward and said, “Let’s do something with this.” Finally somebody has. An excellent idea it is, too.
City Hall should move quickly to make this happen. It’s time to create a quiet, contemplative environment at this spectacular site for thought and reflection. No kiddie playground, no doggie park, no bells and whistles except for greenery, a few benches and maybe a drinking fountain. Street parking is handy in the surrounding residential neighborhood.
Security for the reservoir is paramount. It does contain 5-million gallons of drinking water. But, until something specific is proposed, we don’t know whether a park or at least a viewing platform at the reservoir is feasible or what is involved in making the area secure, while at the same time accessible to everyday folks, even if on a limited basis.
The cost of any upgrades or security enhancements would be a fraction of the approximately $44 million City Hall squandered on the vastly overblown Tongva Park and Ken Genser Square.
This is a great opportunity for a unique, vest-pocket park. Let’s hope it doesn’t get bogged down in a debate over what can and can’t be accomplished. A safe and spectacular Mt. Olivet Park or viewing platform on Berkeley Hill is a priority and a positive community benefit.
Tying up odds, ends
City Council approved two more new hotels at their Nov. 12 meeting. These developments had been kicking around for many months, but when developer OTO Development, headquartered in Spartanburg, S.C., finally agreed to UNITE Here Local 11 demands regarding union membership, wages and benefits, the deal was finally sealed.
The six-story Hampton Inn & Suites will consist of 143 guest rooms, 78,750 square feet of floor area and parking for 108 vehicles in a two-level subterranean garage at 501 Colorado Ave. The companion project is a six-story Courtyard by Marriott with 136 guest rooms, up to another 78,750 square feet of floor area and parking for 108 vehicles in a two-level subterranean garage at 1554 Fifth St., at the same intersection.
While there was quibbling among staff and politicians about columns infringing on pedestrian space and the amount of the developer’s contribution to the Colorado Esplanade, the overall appearance of these gateway developments apparently didn’t warrant a second thought.
As a result, we’ll have two, six-floor inns at Interstate 10 and the Expo Light Rail entrance to Downtown that look like they’d rather be in Bakersfield.
It’s too bad that nobody directly involved insisted on better and more imaginative developments. Because of everyone’s low standards, we’ll have in our midst two more hideous hotels that everyone hates.
Still no word from BBB
Lastly, after last week’s column, we haven’t heard from Big Blue “Bust” about what, if anything, they’re planning to do to improve the miserable service on the Line 3 route on Lincoln Boulevard. No surprise. It’s par for the course.
However, I received an e-mail from a reader who told me it’s just as bad in the evening as it is in the morning with crowded buses — two or three in a row — often bypassing riders at stops. Still unacceptable, guys!
Bill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org