WE HAVE A VISION:
· That Santa Monica’s quality of life is what is “iconic” and higher density and building mass don’t equate with quality of life.
· That we see Santa Monica as a unique gateway to the beach and the Pacific, not as an extension of Wilshire & Bundy.
· That its success and attraction is its human scale, low rise courtyard buildings, pedestrian oriented downtown and its pier, palisades, and promenade – all open to the sky.
· That we strongly agree with LUCE’s main principle “to maintain the character of Santa Monica” and with its conservation plan “that provides for an overall reduction in building height.”
· That it’s a vibrant, walkable downtown, it’s the Promenade or the Brentwood Country Mart, but not “The Grove” or replicating the “Wilshire corridor” along Ocean Ave. or Lincoln Blvd.
· That we see courtyard housing and terraced offices, not towers and robotic facades that are creating the cookie cutter clutter on Broadway and Lincoln, or the massive density and inappropriate scale of what is inexplicably called “The Village” on Ocean Avenue.
· That it’s Shutters or Shores, not the proposed Miramar or hi-rise condos disguised as hotels.
· That architecture is anchored to its site rather than speaking only to contemporary trends and the bottom line for developers.
· That streets have wide landscaped sidewalks, not massive buildings reflecting the vision of developers
· That we need dedicated green space and plazas in our downtown.
· That we see adaptive reuse of 1 and 2 story buildings interspersed with new 3 and 4 story buildings terraced with stepbacks.
· That we see a low rise, human and pedestrian scaled downtown with the warmth of local merchants …. cheek and jowl with corporate chain stores rather than next to the cold indifference of a hi-rise structure.
· That we agree with former mayor Paul Rosenstein’s statement “build it right and they will come” – in other words good design is good economics, maximum density is not good design.
· In short, that our vision is keeping the “iconic downtown” iconic.
DID YOU KNOW:
· That it took 128 years of Santa Monica’s history to reach 12 million sq. ft. of building area in the downtown?
· That the current 1984 code allows approximately 19 million sq. ft. or in other words, a hefty 60% growth remains within the existing code.
· That City Council’s suggested zoning is approximately 25 million sq. ft. or over 100% of additional area within the next 20 years.
· That 70% of the buildings in the downtown area are 1 & 2 stories but the proposed zoning WILL rapidly turn 85% of these into 6, 7, or 8 story buildings – reflecting the developer’s own vision for maximum return on investment while creating canyon walls of steel and stucco with the downtown losing character, texture, sunlight, and blue skies in the process.
· That Lincoln Boulevard, predominantly 1 & 2 stories, WILL quickly become a canyon of 6 – 8 story buildings along with a huge increase in traffic.
· That by encouraging growth to this extent, we WILL ensure the loss of our local small business community – replaced with more expensive space oriented to tourists and those who can afford the higher prices.
· That with 150% increase in density, traffic WILL increase and available parking WILL decrease proportionately – almost certainly coming to a standstill.
· That the enormous increase in infrastructure capacity required for schools, water, power, and waste management WILL also considerably increase your tax bill.
· That “community benefits” in exchange for increased density and height fall far short of associated costs and environmental impacts.
· That “good design” does not require increased or excessive height.
· That with this proposed rampant growth, our downtown WILL become “urban” instead of “beachfront” while we grieve the loss of blue sky.
How much development can the city center support. Dense cities are expensive cities, higher density results in increased cost of living and doing business. How do we manage success and still hold to our values while greed threads its way unchecked through our social and political lives.
What’s happening to downtown is painful to watch, like reading a book and slowly turning the pages to find out what the ending will be. A slow death by a thousand cuts, by a hundred buildings, by a handful of developers – who don’t even live in our community. Don’t let bad planning allow a developer to so maximize a site that leaves behind the wreckage of our city.
We see simple solutions in using a zoning code that allows building design to create open space and a truly pedestrian environment. An economically vibrant downtown can include a one story reduction in all areas currently zoned above 50 ft with a corresponding FAR that includes a 30% open space envelope allowing terracing of buildings while opening views to the sky. And there can be front yard setbacks allowing widening of landscaped sidewalks.
Santa Monica is capable of charting its own future. Why, City Council, are you doing this? Why are you letting a handful of developers and their architects ruin the city you represent and we live in and love? Why do you want your legacy to be the destruction of Santa Monica as we know it? We suggest you take 3 deep breaths, calm down, take the time and find the wisdom to do what’s best. Henry Ford said “failure is simply an opportunity to begin again more intelligently.”
Our vision is to keep downtown iconic while still providing for growth and keeping it economically healthy – what is your vision?? This is a pivotal point in the city’s history. Speak now or forever wonder what could have been and should have been. Let the city council know where you stand!!
Ron Goldman, FAIA, architect
Bob Taylor, AIA, architect
Dan Jansenson, architect
Thane Roberts, AIA, architect
Armen Melkonians, civil and environmental engineer