A rendering of a courtyard planned for Hines' Bergamot Transit Village at the corner of Olympic Boulevard and 26th Street. (Courtesy Hines)


We’re in the middle of a drama with the innocent city heroine courted by a mature developer, like the smart, beautiful girl at the dance choosing the first guy making empty promises. The cast includes a starry-eyed planning staff, Planning Commission, City Council, the wise city manager, planning director, chamber, and finally, the Texas interloper.

This is local government in search of process — flirting and dating over seven years — involving a community audience for four years of the pubescent LUCE period followed by the birth of the “Bergamot Plan!”

These plans herald transformation of an industrial area into a “village” with “adaptive re-use particularly in Bergamot Transit Village,” “respectful of human, not corporate scale,” and “minimizing interaction of vehicles and pedestrian/bicycle activity.”

The drama has many dark spots and inconsistencies. The central scene — a 19,000-square-foot public park — is playground to 500 families in “the village” and more living in adjacent neighborhoods. How will they co-mingle in a park the size of two and a half residential lots? It’s not really a park, but a parklet.

Another interesting scene is the 49,000-square-foot office floor plates in the “village” — three times the area of Century City floor plates. This exception to recently approved and bloated 35,000 square foot design standards is one of dozens of exceptions in a convoluted plan taking four years to nurture to maturity. Large, flexible office areas attract corporate regional offices employing more people per square foot in “creative” environments requiring more cars in a garage already 1,500 spaces short. Not a problem, those 1,500 continue the drama by searching for curbside spaces in surrounding neighborhoods.

The biggest drama and inconsistency is backstage with the 2,000-car garage. Entering off Olympic with a sharp right and immediate sharp left turns and stacking space for four will undoubtedly back onto Olympic with fast moving traffic and a bus lane. Don’t forget your card key at the entrance.

Drama continues in the final scene of Act I — the afternoon when plus/minus 1,200 cars exit every 10 seconds creating total conflict on a “shared street” mixing cars, cyclists, pedestrians and baby strollers in the active village core described in our illustrious pre-play Bergamot program.

Intermission brings community benefits to share — $2 million annually, half from parking revenue — unless the 70 percent garage shortage of spaces doesn’t allow! Is the council willing to prostitute our city for $2 million a year, less than 5 percent of the interloper’s annual profit while increasing density 67 percent.

This mouth-dropping play continues with dramatic scenes in Act II including:

• possibilities for adaptive re-use as directed in LUCE and Bergamot plans

• public services and sustainability including emergency response in a gridlocked environment

• massive design and jobs/housing imbalance

• contamination issues

• and ending with referendums and legal trials

But time and space brings this review to an end. Hard to be part of the audience knowing this drama foreshadows innumerable impacts, followed by immeasurable pain in the slow death of our beachfront city.

This is not a play for the faint of heart, but life-long drama in which the city is playing the role of innocent bystander.

Why does planning staff propose and support glaring inconsistencies? Does our government blindly accept these development proposals — questioning only details rather than big pictures?

Taking seven long years of time and energy on the part of the public, council and developer to reach a climax. Will the fair lady be mistreated or escape with her honor? Will she end with a dagger in her heart or have the courage and dignity after seven years of submissiveness to “just say no?” Quoting from an L.A. Times letter, “Santa Monica may be an urban planner’s dream, but for the rest of us it’s become a nightmare.”


Ron Goldman

Santa Monica

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