members have taken a long, admiring look at a major project involving itself and the land they can see from the council chamber windows.
At its meeting Tuesday night, the council approved of how the roughly $30 million Palisades Garden Walk and Town Square Project is coming along.
The one-acre Town Square will enhance and make more welcoming the area immediately in front of City Hall, with trees, a water feature and comfortable benches.
Just west of Town Square, the six-acre Palisades Garden Walk will be a unique park designed to provide a flowing connection via a series of winding pathways between the and the pier, , the proposed Colorado Avenue Esplanade and the Fourth Street Expo station. Concept renderings of the park, as seen from above, suggest arroyos leading to the sea. In fact, along with the paths, recycled water will be used in features called runnels, akin to brooks.
"Inside the park, you're in a different world, away from the bustle of the street,'' said James Corner, founder of the firm that is handling the project. The experience, he promised, "will be of coming into a garden rather than a municipal park.''
Little of the grounds will be lawn, Corner told the council. Instead, "extraordinary plants'' will rule. The effect, he said, "will blow everybody away'' because the colors, height and texture of the plants may change as often as every week. In addition, oak, pine, sycamore and ficus trees will be featured.
Corner said artistic touches include oversize frames mounted on the park's several elevated viewing areas, designed to suggest looking at giant picture postcards of the ocean or pier. Some of the vista points will rise 18 feet from the ground. Seen from outside the park, Corner said, the frames and trees will give the area an identity and lure passers-by to come in through one of several entrances.
The double-project has been the subject of several community study sessions. Public approval for the design has been strong.
Regarding bikes, Corner said, most people prefer limiting them to the park's perimeters rather than allowing them to ride directly through the park. Bike bays at the entrances would encourage arriving cyclists to walk through the park.
Two council members differed sharply over one proposed feature: small lights dangling from thin cables, aimed at creating a constellation effect. Bobby Shriver said he "hates the lights,'' calling them a bit "cute.'' Pam O'Connor's quick rejoinder: "I love the lights.''
Several members of the public were joined by representatives of businesses on Santa Monica Pier in asking that a subterranean parking garage be built under the park, like the one under San Francisco's Golden Gate Park.
City Manager Rod Gould acknowledged that was desirable but said it would be hugely expensive at a time when other redevelopment projects are under-funded. The difficulty of building such a garage, he added, would delay the overall project by two years.
Further reviews are planned.
(For more coverage of Tuesday night's City Council meeting, go to this story about the official beginning of the debate over Santa Monica Airport, about the ending of the ban on beekeeping in Santa Monica and about the council's approval of the $34 million sale of Pacific Park.)