On February 22nd the Santa Monica City Council will consider whether or not to take the recommendation of the Planning Commission and submit an application to the State of California to modify the Santa Monica approved Housing element so the city can avoid Up-Zoning all commercial districts uniformly.
What’s at stake for residential neighborhoods: Main Street, Montana Avenue, Ocean Park Blvd, Pico Blvd.
Look at Main Street in Ocean Park, for example, it falls into the category of the Neighborhood Commercial Zone (NC Zone). It currently allows for base heights of 32 ft for buildings. The new Housing Element would allow building heights to effectively double, (and if there is a 100% affordable housing project that height can increase by 33% more). What would happen if Main Street is up zoned to have 55 -85 feet tall buildings?
First, this is not a solution for homelessness or for affordable housing. There’s no guarantee these 5-8 (?) story buildings will have an affordable housing component, chances are they won’t. How else would a developer make any money? By the way, the population of Santa Monica is growing marginally, and Ocean Park in particular, already is greatly diverse economically, with rent control throughout the neighborhood. And what about the existing small businesses on Main Street? Gone overnight. Parking? Traffic? Stand on Main Street from 4 pm – 7 pm and experience the existing evening traffic jam…maybe a few private equity firms just come in, buy up chunks of Main Street and forever transform the neighborhood. Main Street will devolve into Any-Town, USA.
People seek out Santa Monica, and in particular, Ocean Park from all over the state, the country and the world. Main Street, Ocean Park is beachside living. Its very character and identity connotes the sound, smell, feel and sight of the Ocean, along with a Sunny, Sunday stroll on Main Street. Nobody came here, either 60 years ago or today to live, work and walk in the shadows of 85 foot tall buildings. The entirety of Main street from Bay to Pier could one day be in the shade everyday after 1 pm. So much for the very essence of what draws people here in the first place. So much for the quality of life for existing residents.
City Council should protect existing residents and our residential neighborhoods. They should stand up & negotiate with the State. The city should seek to preserve the NC zone and protect the character, charm & appeal of Santa Monica. They should submit an application to modify the Housing element to avoid Up-zoning all commercial districts uniformly.
Small Business Closure
Another small business which has faithfully served our community for 50+ years is gone! Pattons Pharmacy, originally owned by Pat Patton and later acquired by Paul and Marilyn Leoni was a fixture of service and customer care since I was a young child, at Montana and Lincoln. The staff, including Eileen Strep and Elsa, knew their customers and were ready to assist in any way possible. When Paul and Marilyn decided to retire we were happy for them but knew as a community we might be losing a beloved and caring pharmacy. Pattons was acquired by Pharmaca which in a short time sold out to Medley. Medly, evidently is bankrupt and sold out to Walgreens, a corporate behemoth who demonstrated quickly and tragically their lack of care and concern for their employees and customers. Within 48 hours last week, without notice, the staff was let go sans medical benefits and all prescriptions were transferred to Walgreen at 20th and Wilshire. I am urging all Santa Monicans to boycott all Walgreens stores and find a local pharmacy which cares about you and your family.
High Speed Rail
Early proponents of the high speed rail project withdrew their support once the route was announced. It was clear from the beginning that travel times between San Francisco and Los Angeles were excessive, and so ridership would be low.
What would work? Changing the alignment, and running the high speed rail line from Redding to Bakersfield. It would provide true high speed rail along flat ground, and would serve as an economic catalyst as the central valley diversifies away from agriculture (due to diminishing water availability). Existing construction would be preserved.
It could serve as the central element of a grand bargain: the central valley complies with all environmental improvements, including reduced water supplies, and in return gets the high speed rail line.
Since the high speed rail line would stimulate economic growth in the central valley, state and local tax revenues would increase, justifying the investment.