CITYWIDE — Do you think Santa Monica is heading in the wrong direction? If so, odds are good that you’re white and over the age of 44, according to a new survey from City Hall.

About 42 percent of residents think that the city is on the right path, while  34 percent think it’s time to change course.

The 2014 Development Survey took opinions from 500 adult residents last month during phone calls lasting on average 22 minutes.

Godbe Research was paid $32,135 by the City Council to conduct the survey and the League of Women Voters-Santa Monica monitored the process to ensure objectivity, city officials said in a report available at smgov.net under the link “Information Items.”

A majority of residents between the ages of 18 and 44 think the city’s future is bright. The numbers invert for those 45 and older, who tend to think the city is getting worse.

A majority of black, Asian-American, Latino, and Pacific Islander residents polled feel the city is improving. Three-quarters of the Latino residents were happy with the direction the city is going.

Among white residents, 40 percent opposed the direction the city is headed while 34.6 percent favored it. Of those residents who identify as being two or more races, a majority felt the city was staying the same.

Residents opposed to the Hines development gather outside of a recent City Council meeting. (Paul Alvarez Jr.)

Residents opposed to the Hines development, with 765,000 square feet of office space and housing, gather outside of a recent City Council meeting. (File photo)

Three landowners Downtown are proposing to build hotels taller than the Downtown Specific Plan Framework’s 84-foot-tall cap.

Most residents (58 percent) had never heard of the Downtown plan — which guides regulation of uses, heights, and density in the area — but a near majority (49.9 percent) strongly favor the height limits in the plan. Another 21 percent somewhat support them, according to the report.

When asked specifically whether they would support the three hotel proposals in exchange for community benefits, the opposition to height was reduced somewhat. But more than 46 percent of those polled said they would still oppose the hotels. Another 39.5 percent said they would support the hotels, given the right community benefits.

Traffic improvement topped the list of community benefits that residents would want to see in exchange for taller heights.

Distaste for height, like distaste for the direction of the city, increased with age.

Restaurants, shopping, and entertainment were residents’ favorite thing about Downtown while traffic congestion was their least favorite.

When asked what should be built in commercial areas, affordable housing topped the list, followed by rental housing, and retail. These were considered to be medium priority.

Several large companies, including Sony, RiotGames, and Google, have announced they are leaving Santa Monica in recent years because they couldn’t find larger office spaces but residents said this was a low priority. Hotel development fell even lower on the list of priorities.

If developments could improve traffic circulation, Santa Monicans would more likely support them.

Most did not care if the developments brought in new property or sales taxes.

Residents largely favor projects that are meshed with the Bergamot Area Plan, which regulates land uses and development on the east side of town. A near majority (49.7 percent) strongly support the projects within the plan and another 24.5 percent somewhat support them.

While residents clearly support the plan, they may have differing views of what that means.

The Bergamot Area Plan, as defined by the survey, “fosters the creation of a walkable, urban art-and transit-oriented neighborhood that allows a mix of housing and creative uses, supported by restaurants and retail to serve people in the area.”

The recently approved and controversial Hines project, labeled by City Hall as the Bergamot Transit Village, was not mentioned in the survey. City planners and supporters of the project, which includes 765,000 square feet of office space and housing at the site of an abandoned factory, say that it fits within the vision of the plan but many of those opposed to the project say that it does not.

One resident group, Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City, is challenging the legality of the project, claiming that it does not comply with the development and affordable housing standards laid out in the plan.

The city’s seven neighborhood groups, Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights and the coalition, have made the Hines project the subject of a referendum effort as they collect thousands of signatures from registered voters in hopes of getting it on the ballot. Ultimately they would like voters to overturn the council’s decision approving it.

Those opposed to the Hines project say that it will create more traffic in an already congested area. Most of those polled by City Hall listed increased traffic as their primary concern regarding development in the area.

Improved economy and the creation of new jobs were the top two reasons that resident’s said they would support development in the area.

 

dave@smdp.com

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