In late 2013, a group of design professionals met to discuss their concerns regarding the city’s direction. The group took the acronym SM a.r.t. (Santa Monica Architects for a Responsible Tomorrow). Their goal is to join a discussion that until now had been dominated by developers and city staff.
They believed that proposed projects and policies currently before the city were often misunderstood due to their complexity and the bias of their presenters. SM a.r.t.’s intent is to use their professional experience to clarify the issues and provide a framework (set of goals) to assist residents in framing the issues and joining the discussion on the city’s future.
SM a.r.t evaluates projects and policies based on the extent to which they exemplify the following five goals:
1. To preserve Santa Monica’s “relaxed” beach culture.
Santa Monica’s temperate climate on the Pacific Rim is a defining feature of our city. The cooling sea breezes along our oceanfront have played a big part in the city’s cultural heritage and allure. The city’s “relaxed” style differentiates it from neighboring cities to the east and should be preserved — both for its residents as well as for those that visit each year to escape “the hustle and bustle” of urban life.
2. To maximize light, air, views and green space.
The views and skyline of our community are disappearing due to high-walled buildings that block the ocean breezes and sunlight inland. We should continue to provide more open space and keep new construction in scale with the existing building stock. New parks and open space should be a priority.
3. To build at a human scale and for family life.
The city’s relaxed, seaside character and human scale plays in an important role in its allure. The currently proposed high-rise developments that dwarf their neighbors will forever redefine the skyline and character of the city. The low-rise residential buildings, that are better suited for families, are being replaced by multi-story projects with fewer bedrooms and little connection to life at ground level.
4. To create a walkable, bikeable and drivable city.
In the great European cities, the pedestrian experience is enhanced with large sidewalks, outdoor cafes and unique shopping opportunities. The result is a dynamic street life for pedestrians and bikers that fosters interaction and brings the city to life. If the currently proposed developments move forward, the circulation within the city will continue to deteriorate increasing delays and frustration for its residents.
5. To be a smart, connected & sustainable community.
The city has taken a leading role in being a model for sustainable living. California is in the midst of a serious drought and rainfall is at record lows. It is incumbent upon the city to make sure that our resources and facilities are adequate for the current population before allowing for more growth. Sustainable technologies must become part of the city’s energy plan as it prepares for its future.
SM a.r.t.: Santa Monica Architects for a Responsible Tomorrow
Ron Goldman FAIA, Architect
Mario Fonda-Bonardi AIA
Robert H. Taylor AIA
Daniel Jansenson, Architect
Sam Tolkin, Architect
Thane Roberts AIA