I didn’t attend the Wilshire Montana (Wilmont) Neighborhood Coalition’s annual meeting June 20 because I was volunteering at the Juneteenth celebration in Virginia Park.
I missed the panel discussion about “the future” of mid-Wilshire Boulevard. The two large commercial properties between 14th and Euclid streets (now a Rite-Aid and a Von’s market) are the poster children for the proposed update to the city’s master plan — the Land Use and Circulation Element or LUCE.
The city’s goal is to eventually allow these and other commercial properties to be developed exactly as city Planning Director Eileen Fogarty envisions — as large, dense "activity centers" with underground parking, full lot coverage, building(s) up to six floors high containing a mix of market rate and public housing, retail and office/commercial space and interior courtyards with entrances facing enhanced, pedestrian oriented streets and sidewalks instead of rear surface parking lots.
While there are no plans to develop these privately owned parcels that I know of, a large commercial property in the 3100 block of Wilshire (Albertsons/Big 5) was recently purchased by the Macerich Co. who does plan to redevelop at some point but hasn’t revealed specifics. Chances are good it will be an “activity center” like the ones Fogarty says we need along mid-Wilshire and on Lincoln, Pico and Santa Monica boulevards, Broadway and Colorado Avenue.
In March or 2007, the city hosted a LUCE neighborhood scoping meeting at Lincoln Middle School to gauge public opinion — but more accurately, to convince us bigger is better. Most of my neighbors were opposed to large developments period but especially in the 1300 block of Wilshire, the loss of street traffic carrying capacity, cosmetic sidewalk enhancements and other misdirected efforts they saw as contributing to more crowding, traffic congestion, larger buildings and a loss of Wilmont’s sense of place.
They felt victimized by Fogarty, city planning staff, highly paid out of town consultants, pro-development council persons, planning commissioners, real estate, construction and architectural interests, bicycle advocates and pro-growth city and Renters’ Rights sycophants who were there (as well as at all the other LUCE meetings) to lobby hard for bigger “smartgrowth” projects and “green streets.”
Chalk it up to the city’s classic “we hear you but we’re not listening” syndrome because two weeks ago at Wilmont’s annual meeting, Fogarty was putting lipstick on the very same pig neighbors rejected over two years ago. She was still gripping the same six floor “activity centers,” wider sidewalks, improved pedestrian enhancements, landscaping and reduced traffic lanes in her teeth like a stubborn bulldog with a bone. When polled, a resounding 74 percent of Wilmont’s attendees still opposed the “activity center” concept.
Despite all the publicity, outreach and glossy propaganda, Santa Monicans know a rotten apple when they smell one. For example, Fogarty gussies up these developments as residential projects, transitioning away from what she calls “a hostile environment for pedestrians” as if something were wrong with driving, parking your car and walking in and out of a drug or grocery store.
From the very beginning, the issues Fogarty defines are bogus. Nobody’s complaining about narrow sidewalks or being unable to walk, but they are bitching about traffic gridlock, parking shortages, too much development and vagrants. The people continue to be ignored and problems will be exacerbated when LUCE is finally approved, next year.
The “activity centers” — in fact, most of LUCE’s proposed development standards for major commercial streets — call for taller and more massive buildings if “public benefits” such as pubic housing or family-oriented shopping like grocery stores were included in the developments. Sounds like another snow job because most of these “public benefits" don’t serve the neighborhood.
The Daily News commented (June 27, 2009) about Los Angeles, "despite the oft-repeated smart growth mantra… Little of the new commercial development is for the local residents. You don’t see the small markets selling fruits and vegetables and staples or hardware stores or shoe repairs.
“They have been displaced by businesses that target people who live outside the area such as restaurants, bars and trendy boutiques, exotic plant shops, and incense and candle stores. These aren’t neighborhood mom and pops. They are owned by outsiders … They don’t have the same stake in the neighborhoods and attract customers from other areas whose cars clog streets and take up the limited parking that’s available.”
This holds especially true here in tourist-ridden Santa Monica where Fogarty and her expensive consultants would rather pursue fantasies and false premises. Wanna bet when LUCE goes before City Council for approval a year from now, bigger mixed-use “activity centers" will be de-rigueur on all of our major streets?
Another LUCE public workshop is being held tomorrow, July 7, 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. in the Civic Auditorium East Wing. Got a Comment? Don’t waste your time. This turkey has already been cooked and served up even though it’s putrid.
Bill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.