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Development, Opinion, Santa Monica, Columnist

Leaping To Tall Buildings In A Single Bound

Steve Stajich, Columnist
Santa Monica Mirror Archives
Steve Stajich, Columnist

Posted Nov. 16, 2013, 8:56 am

Steve Stajich / Mirror Columnist

When contractors, construction industry-related business owners, real estate owners, and corporate hotel management types wake up in the morning, the first thought in their heads is always the same: “What can I do to reduce traffic and car congestion in Santa Monica?”

No, of course it’s not. So why is our city being sold tall building projects with arguments that include reducing reliance on cars? Much as I’m glad the Expo Line is coming to our city, the only solid evidence that people will respond to it and actually reduce their driving is yet to come… after the train line is running.

An LA Times article from Nov. 5 states that proposed hotels and hotel expansions are within walking distance of the rail line, “an added selling point for backers.” Really.

So there’s hard evidence that the demographic staying in $400-plus a night hotel rooms loves to climb on board public transportation…? I was not aware of that.

And much as we are making progress increasing and improving bicycle transportation in Santa Monica, visitors will still want to get to Universal City and downtown LA. Proposed high-rise hotels likely won’t come with a bicycle-built-for-two in every room.

Although a walk along the beach wouldn’t cause you hear the squadrons overhead, Santa Monica is being strafed by the attack planes of “growth” and it’s likely not a coincidence that the attack is happening after a revamp of the city’s land use plan and as Expo Line construction begins to increase its footprint. But how did our longtime resistance to growth and high buildings suddenly soften to the point where we’re actually considering Frank Gehry’s tower just a thrown seashell from the beach?

To borrow from Oliver Stone, money never sleeps.

Any moment in any discussion where we forget exactly what it is hotel corporations and developers want is a moment where we have let ourselves drift off into another world; one where motives are always projected through the righteous eyes of the collective whole of society.

This is not to say that our City Council has not been vigilant. It’s us. They hope that, with time, we will soften our resolve and their methods can be brilliant. To many, the Gehry building would represent a kind of world-class flourish for the city. Santa Monica would have its “Gehry”; call the post card printers. Then, pointing at that, expansion-hungry forces for hotels and condos would rightfully want to know why their tall buildings couldn’t also begin to block out our sky.

Because it is, in fact, our sky. If we don’t all have a sense that we can exert our wills against developers, then why don’t we just agree to build a big paper factory on the beach? Because, you would argue, a paper factory would be an ugly polluting blight that robbed our beaches of a certain pristine character. Whereas a tower designed by Frank Gehry actually gives rather than takes away. It gives us a big sky-blocking building that goes on to seed further tall buildings and pretty soon it’s not just the attention-grabbing Wiggler near the beach… it’s the tall building forest.

I’m overstating in fact, but hopefully not in theory. And what about those grand old days of yore when we fought for rights?

Not to dig into every dark chapter of how our country grew up, but historically the railroads just took what they wanted to lay their tracks across our country. Since days like those, we’ve come to expect that growth is measured and monitored by good citizens who consider and review the entire scope of things. Hence we don’t have a paper factory on our beach. But we do seem to have our soft tummies up right now, and dog owners know that means ‘rub me and I’ll be a good pet.’ We are not the pets of hotels and developers, no matter how delicious a treat additional tax base makes.

Post a comment


Nov. 16, 2013, 9:41:29 am

Ron Achrnabaum said...

The one to watch is the airport - when its closed it will be the next playa vista and that will be the battle roayale for the city. The developers are funding the legal challenge to the FAA which was initiated by developer backed council members

Nov. 16, 2013, 10:49:18 am

Sue McHugh said...

much as I hate propositions that become ballot measures, I wish the citizens of Santa Monica could vote for these developments rather than leaving them in the hands of the politicians and bureaucrats feeding at the public trough

Nov. 16, 2013, 5:23:51 pm

Terry said...

Investigate the criminals that we call a Mayor and City Council just like the city of Bell did. Large campaign "donations" from developers and god only knows what they get under the table.

Nov. 16, 2013, 6:40:54 pm

segacious said...

look to the planning director who advised the planning commission to meet the time schedule of the proposed developments in the down town enterprise zones. Its the planning director directing the proposed developments

Nov. 16, 2013, 7:51:12 pm

Rose said...

By the time we the people, who pay higher city taxes and high rents, we who have to maneuver our way through cranes, construction zones and pitted streets to get home, are always the last to know when the deal has been done. There went the Post Office,, the closing of the Public Schools and creation of even more Private schools, The beautiful Miramar going to look like the Chrysler Building, sold to us as 'restoring Santa Monica to its former glory'. We're not buying it! Best I can figure the, developers (carpetbaggers) arrive first plans in hand and proceed to pay off,, convince or otherwise finagle the Planning Commission, city Council, The Rotary, whoever and some persons inside the City. They take their money and leave us a city hard to get around in and soon unable to afford.

Nov. 16, 2013, 9:39:24 pm

njhamill said...

When are the people of Santa Monica going to wake up! I can’t even go downtown anymore, the traffic is so bad. It’s worse than downtown LA. We must take a stand against development beyond what our infrastructure can bear. Speak up before it’s too late. Stop the madness. It doesn't matter if the reason is corruption, payoffs, lethargy, misguided direction, lack of leadership – every available inch of this city cannot be developed for high-end construction. Enough already. And Ron is right – watch out for the airport. Airplane traffic is preferable to another Playa Vista. Think Cloverfield is bad now? Just wait!!!!!

Nov. 17, 2013, 10:37:40 am

Santa Monican said...

Direct this anger directly at the sources: Mayor Pro Tempore Terry O'Day, Mayor Pam O'Connor, Gleam Davis, Bob Holbrook, Tony Vazquez, Ted Winterer, Kevin McKeown. These are the group making YOUR Santa Monica into a giant concrete monster. They are the ones allowing more and more high rises, denser populations and more traffic. They are the reason you can't drive a block without running into a crane or a closed street. It's them taking getting rich off of this. VOTE THEM OUT NOW and send a message loud and clear.

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