A Development Philosophy
The overriding issue of 2020 is the desire of developers to transform our city. Most of them are from other parts of the United States with little connection to our long established beach culture in Santa Monica.
There are dozens of proposed projects planned in our eight-square-mile city. Among these are three towers of 11 stories or higher between 4th Street and Palisades Park in downtown, and more downtown mixed-use, mid-rise housing complexes. Of course, we have seen the abominable "Great Wall" of Lincoln Blvd rise between the Santa Monica Freeway and Broadway, with more building to come on that boulevard. And don't think that the other boulevards and streets will be exempt from this catastrophic building spree. Any notion that Santa Monica is a seaside city will be dispelled as our streets become one mid-rise or high-rise building after another obscuring our sunlight and palm trees.
The Southern California Association of Governments, along with the active approval of the State of California, has called for almost 9000 additional housing units to be built within a decade. Your city council stood down and did not oppose the call for excessive housing in our city. Remember this inaction of the incumbents when you mail in your ballots.
For many years, we enjoyed a percentage of open space in every new building constructed, setbacks from the sidewalk, and assurance that taller buildings would be tiered. As you can see, that is no longer the case. Developers are being allowed to maximize their profits and we see projects that are creating a canyon of huge buildings in our city.
In addition, the once sacred R2 & R3 zones are seeing hotel encroachment, day care centers and/or bed & breakfasts springing up and a overall disregard for the sanctity of our residential neighborhoods.
Our fundamental discussion must be about what comprises the uniqueness of Santa Monica. How do we improve the areas of our city that need change without destroying the reasons that we love our city? I believe in change but unfettered growth that is detrimental to our neighborhoods and our residents must be stopped.
I've been called a "anti-growth" or a "slow growth" proponent. I disagree with that label. I'm all for growth that continues to give our city an authentic, organic, sustainable feel. Visitors come to our city to see Santa Monica, not an extension of Los Angeles. Our residents live here because of the uniqueness and charm of our city. We love our local businesses, our distinctive restaurants, our comfortable apartment houses and charming cottages. When we destroy rent controlled housing to build a new, mixed use apartment house we are losing our individual identity as a city. When prices rise so high that a unique business finds it better to sell than to stay, we lose our character.
I'm part of a "rebel" salon that meets weekly in our city. We meet out of the necessity that we sense and sometimes out of our despair for the future of this city that we all love so much. Our team is called the SM a.r.t Group. I support the goals of this group of talented, passionate citizens. I am fortunate to be a member and to have written numerous articles of interest to our residents via the Santa Monica Daily Press and Santa Monica Mirror. I want to share our common goals for Santa Monica with you. By the way, these goals do not include approval of any plan that will cause all of us to fall out of love with our city.
The Genesis and 5 Point Philosophy of SM a.r.t. (Santa Monica Architects for a Responsible Tomorrow)
Seven years ago, a group of design professionals came together to discuss their concerns regarding the City’s direction.
The group took the acronym SMa.r.t. (Santa Monica Architects for a Responsible Tomorrow). It's goal is to join a discussion that until now had been dominated by Developers and City Staff. They believed that proposed projects and policies currently before the City were often misunderstood due to their complexity and the bias of their presenters. The intent of SMart’s members is to use their professional experience to clarify the issues and provide a framework (set of goals) to assist residents in framing the issues and joining the discussion on the City’s future.
SMart evaluates projects and policies based on the extent to which they exemplify the following 5 goals:
1. To preserve Santa Monica’s “relaxed” beach culture
Santa Monica's temperate climate on the Pacific Rim is a defining feature of our City. The cooling sea breezes along our oceanfront have played a big part in the City's cultural heritage and allure. The City's "relaxed" style differentiates it from neighboring cities to the east and should be preserved- both for its residents as well as for those that visit each year to escape “the hustle and bustle” of urban life.
2. To maximize light, air, views and green space
The views and skyline of our community are disappearing due to high-walled buildings that block the ocean breezes and sunlight inland. We should continue to provide more open space and keep new construction in scale with the existing building stock. New parks and open space should be a priority.
3. To build at a human scale and for family life
The City’s relaxed, seaside character and human scale plays an important role in its allure. The currently proposed high-rise developments that dwarf their neighbors will forever redefine the skyline and character of the City. The low-rise residential buildings, that are better suited for families, are being replaced by multi-story projects with fewer bedrooms and little connection to life at ground level.
4. To create a walkable, bikeable and drivable city
In the great European cities, the pedestrian experience is enhanced with large sidewalks, outdoor cafes and unique shopping opportunities. The result is a dynamic street life for pedestrians and bikers that fosters interaction and brings the city to life. As the current and proposed developments move forward, the circulation within the City continues to deteriorate, increasing delays and frustration for its residents.
5. To be a smart, connected & sustainable community
The City has given lip service to being a leader in Sustainable Living. It is incumbent upon the City to make sure that our natural resources (water, electricity) and infrastructure facilities (sewers, roads, transit) are adequate for the current population before allowing for more growth. Sustainable technologies must become part of the City’s energy plan as it prepares for its future.