Santa Monica stands at a crossroads, and on Wednesday, March 18, at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall, our Planning Commissioners will recommend which path they believe we should follow. Do we reshape our boulevards to be a vibrant, walkable mix of housing and transportation options, or do we settle for what we have — long, lonely corridors, surface parking lots, bike and pedestrian danger zones?
Santa Monicans already weighed the balance of our options and, in 2010, after a six-year process of community discussion, our City Council adopted the Land Use and Circulation Element (LUCE) of our General Plan. The LUCE directs new growth, mostly housing, to 4 percent of our city and prohibits any increase in the intensity of land use in the remaining 96 percent of our city (thereby protecting our neighborhoods from drastic character changes). The 4-percent area targeted for growth includes our downtown and our major transportation corridors — areas that provide the opportunity for residents to live near public transit and within walking/biking distance of jobs, shopping and entertainment. This is the kind of strategic growth we need to help us address our traffic problem through proven land use strategies. (You can learn more about the LUCE on the city’s website.)
But the question has arisen about whether to revisit this planning document and throw out an essential piece in our community’s strategy — focusing new housing on our city’s boulevards. Down-zoning the city’s transit-rich boulevards would be a step backward for Santa Monica, keeping us mired in traffic and inefficiency that diminishes our families’ quality of life and hinders our businesses’ ability to attract and retain employees and customers.
We need to plan intelligently for our future so that we can reduce traffic, encourage business growth and fix the jobs-housing imbalance while minimizing impacts on our existing neighborhoods. (Did you know that downtown Santa Monica currently has approximately 10 jobs for every one unit of housing?) As a forward-looking city located in a region with a severe housing shortage, we must allow new housing opportunities for people of all stages of life and all income levels in areas close to public transit options. In addition to helping address the region’s housing shortage, this will help minimize traffic by providing more opportunities for the city’s employees to also reside here and take advantage of our region’s growing transportation network. A careful balance between preserving our neighborhoods’ character and smart growth is critical.
Lifetime resident and local business owner Susan Gabriel Potter, owner of ISU Bob Gabriel Co. Insurance, worries: “In my opinion, if the LUCE is amended we will see continued stagnation of the Wilshire Boulevard corridor. Wilshire needs to be a pedestrian-friendly boulevard, which will in turn help activate businesses in the area.”
Unfortunately, the LUCE’s plan for reviving Wilshire Boulevard — by adding housing opportunities and getting more people on sidewalks, resulting in safer and more vibrant streets — is under threat. On March 18 the Planning Commission will meet to discuss changing the LUCE to remove the proposed activity centers — targeted sites identified for dynamic place-making opportunities, including affordable housing, creative uses and open space — along Wilshire, as well as down-zoning our mixed-use boulevards, stunting potential growth to levels so low that it will not make any economic sense to build housing. We will be stuck with the current predominance of single-story commercial-only development. Our traffic problems and housing imbalance will remain, and our streetscape will remain as inefficient as ever.
We highly encourage everyone who supports a more walkable, livable Santa Monica — with a mix of transportation and housing options — to speak on March 18 and tell our Planning Commissioners that the proposed down-zoning LUCE amendments are a major step in the wrong direction, and that you support the LUCE’s vision of encouraging new housing along our major transportation corridors.
We should stand by the many years of hard work and outreach that created a sensible, forward-looking plan to increase housing options in strategic, transit oriented locations, making our streets safer and protecting our neighborhoods. The adoption of the Zoning Ordinance will be the first step toward implementing this plan. Now is not the time to second-guess ourselves.
The Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce strives to support both our 1,000-plus business members and all Santa Monicans who want to be engaged in a positive, fact-based discussion about the future of our city. Planning for smart growth while protecting our existing neighborhoods is the LUCE’s fundamental policy goal. The Chamber will be there at every step of the way to ensure we implement this vision and continue to move forward as a vibrant Santa Monica. We hope you will join us.
Laurel Rosen is president of the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce.
Well said Laurel. If people want Santa Monica to remain a desirable place to live, the city needs funds to pay for the nice things we have. These funds come from businesses operating in the city.
Second, Wilshire right now is such a sad, desolate street from about Bundy to the downtown area, with barely any human life on the sidewalks. How could that not depress everyone? Wilshire isn’t a freeway, but one of our main city boulevards, and should be treated as such!
Ms Rosen pays homage to the ghost of our recently departed Rod ( Jay ) Gould- let us remember the words of the great industrialist, Jay -no doubt Rod and the COC’s mentor and God- :”I judge property myself by its net earning power; that is the only rule I have been able to get.… This whole island [Manhattan] was once bought for a few strings of beads. But now you will find this property valued by its earning power, by its rent power, and that is the way to value a railroad or telegraph.” Chamber of Horrors is on it’s way to the Bead Store- we need to stop them before they get to the train 🙂
Juan, have you ever lived in a city with truly efficient transit? Are you responsible for children or the elderly or handicapped? Does your job require you to transport more than a computer? Do you have any notion of what life is like for the many people who do have those responsibilities? How getting them around and one’s self around and on time for school, jobs, Dr. appointments, etc. doesn’t work in a poorly planned system and inefficient system. This is not Mine Craft and we are not starting from scratch. Marketing of failed integration simply because your mind dreams of the ideal is nonsense. It’s not like one can choose a ” neighborhood serving” doctor or a local job (though being a city employee gets you CCSM). How many in your department are responsible for anyone other than themselves? What’s the ratio of people dependant on those who work in city planning dept or at the chamber? Is it 1:1? From what comes from the so-called work produced it sure seems to be a fair estimate.
Your assessment of quality of life…is it ego centric? By the way, anything with a “NEXT” next to the name is propaganda policy pushed by Microsoft and other corporations… Tools and toadies are caught in the trap
But but but I thought the future of Santa Monica was not allowing pony rides at Farmer Market’s and making sure Han Solo lands his plane in Venice. I am so confused. At least we have a Dunkin Donuts.
This article is written on behalf of the Chamber of Commerce – a group that lobbies for business who wish to make more money (in my opinion). NOTHING in this article addresses what is good for the people who actually LIVE in Santa Monica. In my opinion, this is just another piece of the effort to make money from Santa Monica at the expense of the residents of Santa Monica. No resident who cares about the quality of life in Santa Monica should pay any attention to this point of view.
Wilshire Boulevard will continue to be LA’s premier transit corridor into the coming decades. A Bus-Only lane opens this year and the subway will slowly head west over the next 2 decades. Dismantling the LUCE’s vision for Wilshire Blvd will leave the neighborhood’s residents sitting in traffic, rather than zipping across the 405 on transit.
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