Miramar Expansion: Or We Could Just Say “No”…

Saturday, 5 May 2012, 1:43:00 AM

Steve Stajich

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

With every new proposal to build more and bigger near our Santa Monica beaches, there is always a strong case in favor. And most of the arguments seem to involve a simple, clear logic. More jobs, and more jobs is good. More tax revenue, and more revenue is good. At a City Council meeting on Tuesday April 24 where redevelopment of the Miramar Hotel was discussed and debated, one person speaking in support of the proposed construction stated that in order for Santa Monica to remain “a prime destination for world travelers” you had to “stay competitive.” And right after that followed the claim that to be competitive the Miramar had to be allowed to redevelop its property. It had to.

Whoa! I guess I forgot about how we were all united on making Santa Monica a prime destination for world travelers. Was that a citizen vote or a City Council vote… or just something that we all know in our hearts? Are we hosting the Olympics any time soon? What about moving Coachella? Why is a “prime destination for world travelers” letting the dumb desert take away the sweet jackpot of 200,000 music fans clogging our beach restrooms? Don’t we have to keep looking at more and bigger and more? Isn’t that the way things are supposed to go?

I’m just saying, we can always say “No.” But that’s just me, wanting what I want. What about what you want, Santa Monica? Maybe the last few months, you’ve been getting up at your home near Wilshire and Ocean and thinking, “Is there some big massive thing they could build to block out the sun coming in my windows? I’m not rich, and yet I have all this view and sunshine. That seems wrong somehow.”

Enough with me grinding my teeth. Here are some questions we might all ask ourselves regarding the proposed redevelopment of the Miramar Hotel. If we’re all good on most of these, then I guess we really do want it. You know, to stay competitive.

What is the Need?

There’s the perception that the Miramar redevelopment is needed to enhance the city’s status as a tourist destination. That’s followed by the undeniable fact that a larger Miramar will result in millions of new dollars for all involved, including the City. Reminding you that our city currently runs on a balanced budget, I guess looking forward one would want to make sure there were new revenue streams being created. Somehow, some amount of affordable housing will be created in the trade-offs. You might be able to afford that affordable housing. The new bigger Miramar will be sitting in front of you, but you’ll maybe have a new home. Much of the construction will be to build condos, which I doubt many of us will be able to afford. But remember, the world is coming here and the world has money.

Why so BIG?

The new construction will be big. One person opposed described the design as the building of a “massive wall along Second Street.” Another voice at the Tuesday Council meeting said, “The project is too bulky, too big, too tall.” Yet another speaking against the proposal stated flatly that “They’re going to screw up the view and put up a huge wall (of buildings) that looks like China or Russia built by the Soviets.” So much for the warmth factor communicated in the plans for Miramar. As Parimal M. Rohit has reported in The Mirror, the developer has offered City Hall four alternatives after planning commissioners earlier this year expressed concern about the project’s size, although the project’s square footage remained the same in each alternative. Am I just doing my aging hippie routine in thinking that making money has something to do with the dimensions of this project?

How Does It Help Me?

By which I mean, you. Will you get one of the new jobs working at the new Super-Sized Miramar? Will your life be in any way directly impacted? Have you been losing sleep over the fact that Santa Monica might, at some point, lose its competitive edge in the “world traveler prime destination” sweepstakes? You’re breaking up… what are you saying? You can’t get your car through downtown on a Saturday during tourist season? There’s no parking? The “GLOW” event was so jammed you couldn’t actually get your kids close to the artwork? I’m sorry, you’re breaking up again…

This column does not oppose growth as a general concept. I wanted Eli Broad to build his art museum here. That seemed like a good fit, an environmentally tidy means of pulling more people to Santa Monica and adding to the cultural richness of the city. But that’s a facility that would serve all of the people all of the time. You and I won’t be buying condos at the Miramar. School children won’t have new learning experiences because of condos at the Miramar. Traffic won’t be calmed by condos at the Miramar. We can alter and ask for clearances and exceed height restrictions a little here and there. Or there’s this other thing we could do. We could say “No.”

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