Residents participate in a brainstorming session Sunday during a City Hall-sponsored community workshop to gather input from residents about two proposed parks for the Civic Center. (photo by Photo Courtesy City Of Santa Monica)

CIVIC CENTER — Whether it be a stroll under a twinkling canopy of lights, a picnic in an intimate botanical garden, or a hilltop view of the Pacific Ocean, residents of Santa Monica could soon have it all in the Civic Center.

Three conceptual designs for the Palisades Garden Walk and Town Square were presented at a public workshop Sunday after months of planning and discourse with community members.

The meeting was meant to provoke discussion about the pros and cons of each public park design and for the community to contribute their own ideas, rather than to vote on a particular scheme.

James Corner Field Operations, the New-York based firm chosen to design the park, will use the data collected from the meeting in combination with another round of surveys to hone in on a plan that best fits community need for the new heart of Santa Monica.

Part of the Civic Center Specific Plan adopted by the City Council in 2005, the Palisades Garden Walk will connect City Hall to Ocean Avenue, bounded on either side by the Santa Monica Freeway and the proposed Olympic Avenue.

The $25 million budget will cover the construction of the six-acre park and an accompanying one-acre Town Square at the base of City Hall.

The plans, presented by architect James Corner, were created based on feedback from community surveys given at a previous workshop in July. The goal is to create a new destination in the center of the city with a strong connection to bordering areas with a variety of uses during the night and day.

“We all want as many users as possible to be able to get in and enjoy the park and use it to connect to other parts of the city through the park, on foot or on bike as part of their daily routines,” Alison Kendall, an eight-year resident of Santa Monica said.

Each scheme prioritizes different aspects of the Santa Monica landscape and needs of the community and is an interpretation of local nature — the washes, palisades and rich vegetation that once characterized the region.

The Arroyo Wash focuses on fluidity and a connection with the surrounding areas, trellis lighting and large open spaces. The Arroyo Ravine is a Mediterranean take on the area with a ravine and accompanying plateau to emphasize the local views. The final proposal, the Arroyo Dune creates intimate mini-gardens throughout the space for specific programming and is reminiscent of a botanical garden with 80 percent of the area shaded by a canopy of trees.

Key elements of the surrounding area are incorporated into each design, including local landmarks such as Morty, a Moreton Bay Fig tree, and the restaurant Chez Jay, along with the relocation of The Three Amigos fig trees from the southern edge of the space.

“People expressed a lot of concerns about personal safety. … One of the things that will prevent that is … by having the park have lots of people,” Kenneth Strumpell, a Santa Monica resident. “What I like about the (Arroyo Wash) is that it’s so open on the edges, there are a lot of ways for people to get in and kind of energize the park.”

Space for civic engagement and a variety of activities, sustainability, and a spot for viewing the surrounding landscape were also prioritized in the plans.

Cynthia Rose, a Santa Monica resident and member of the bike advocacy group Santa Monica Spoke, attended the meeting to ensure the city prioritized the needs of cyclists

“[Bicycle infrastructure is] an easy add at the beginning and its something that if you have to backtrack to do it properly will only cause problems and cost more money,” Rose said, adding that so far she thinks the city is working harder to meet the needs of cyclists in the planning process.

Included in the design is the potential for a I-10 Freeway cap at the McClure Tunnel, as well as a pedestrian walkway to Palisades Park to further connect the areas.

“Regardless of the concept that we go with, the idea of linkages is very important,” Planning Commissioner Jason Parry said during a design critique with the Parks and Recreation and Planning commissions.

The firm will have a follow up community meeting in November about design direction and will have more concrete plans for the space ready in January.

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