David Pisarra

I’m scared for our city.

I’m scared that we’re about to tip over into an inhospitable, overcrowded, uncomfortable social structure that alienates residents and tourists. I say this because I was driving down 4th street last week and looked over at the entrance to Santa Monica Place and there was neon yellow “razor wire looking” slinky looking thing that was spread out to block the entrance. It looks like something from the Green Zone in Baghdad, or the malls that I saw in South Africa that are gated. I was literally sick to my stomach at the sight of it.

If this is what we’ve become, a city that is so dangerous that the malls are protecting themselves with physical obstructions designed to scare people, I don’t know how the Convention and Visitors Bureau can counteract that messaging. It reeks of Third world, of dictatorships, of oppression.

For a city that is supposed to be an open and inviting tourist mecca, this image is appalling to me. We have “ambassadors” not security on the Promenade to soften their images and impact. Our reputation is of a friendly beach community, with local restaurants like Bruno’s, and Chez Jay where you’re known by your name.

But all of that is being negated by the image of a scary slinky.

We were a small town with compounds of one-story apartment complexes that created community and friendships. We are becoming a monolithic facade of 3, 4, and 5 story apartment complexes of no real character, design, or imagination. It seems that every week I notice yet another building being torn down to be replaced by a boxy complex with all the creativity of a Soviet architect.

Demolition has begun on the bowling alley on Pico and 4th with another five story boring box of apartments to be built there. The impact on the surrounding area is of little concern to the developers, the lack of any design beyond the maximization of livable space is yet another example of unintended consequences of poor code writing lawmakers. This latest version has to be finally reviewed, but I anticipate that it will be just as big, just as boring, and just as ugly as the prior submission. I’ve read that it complies with the current design codes and that means it’s essentially an automatic approval thanks to the current state and local regulations for development.

A quick walk from the 10 freeway up Lincoln Blvd to Colorado and you’ll see what our city is currently on track to become over the next 20 years. It’s a shadow canyon created by bland, boring, unimaginative buildings that are a mixed-use example of computer design. Honestly, I don’t know what the future of architecture is, given the capitulation of developers to computer-aided design. Why do we even need architects? Can’t we just have some artificial intelligence like Watson design a building, drop in the plumbing and have the painting crew use three primary colors against a basic white background and call it a day? Why bother with an Architectural Review Board?

I long for the days when Ken Genser was on the council and he would hold up an approval just to be contrarian because he didn’t like the idea of unanimous elections. I wish we had a council that would force the developers to be creative and imaginative. It’s sad to me that we are becoming the Logan’s Run future that was fiction, and is quickly becoming reality.

Our city has much to offer in terms of culture, lifestyle, and quality of life, but part of a city’s vibe is the architecture and population. As the affordable apartments are replaced with these new modern edifices that are charging high market rates, we are losing our artists, musicians, and creatives. I suppose that is the nature of development and the maturation of the city – but I don’t have to like it. I know that some sliver of apartments will be dedicated as “low income” but frankly, it’s a drop in the bucket and the higher rents have a ripple effect on the market driving up all the other unit prices.

I’m not sure what to do about all this. But I do know that starting with the no more intimidating entrance obstructions would be a good beginning and a directive from the city council that architecture needs to have some artistic merit beyond three blotches of a primary color.

David Pisarra is a Los Angeles Divorce and Child Custody Lawyer specializing in Father’s and Men’s Rights with the Santa Monica firm of Pisarra & Grist. He welcomes your questions and comments. He can be reached at dpisarra@pisarra.com or 310/664-9969. You can follow him on Twitter @davidpisarra