This letter is to the residents against the Hines project. How do you
solve a problem that is already unbearable by rallying to do - nothing?
I offer my opinion here out of concern for our shared future - I gain
no financial benefit, nor do I have any project before the council now,
nor in the foreseeable future. And I feel your fear and frustration,
but I do not share it. I suspect that the difference between us is a
consequence of our holding on to very different visions of what the
future may hold.
Your vision, IMO, is looking into the rear view mirror, reminiscing
of days of old when there was just not that much traffic - yet. I hear
you wanting to 'fix traffic' - which is the same as wishing that people
would just get off the streets so we can all drive again. And I observe
you blaming congestion on development and growth, which in your mind has
ruined the bucolic low key beach life you once had.
What you fail to understand is how traffic and the low key city you
reminisce and mourn are really two sides of the same coin. That unique
moment in time you wish to return to, when driving was unobstructed, was
only a fleeting state by design. We had built wider roads than we
needed to be ready for future traffic. The dreaded growth was built into
that scenario from the very first moment.
Driving is hugely wasteful in land use, and all that land that is
dedicated to our automobiles costs money to be maintained; with funds,
which especially after Prop 13, cities generate more and more through
development fees. In the car based low density city you must grow and
sprawl, otherwise you are cutting off your financial nose to spite your
But there is also another vision for the future, and that picture is a
bit more promising. And I had thought that this vision is one I shared
with many residents in Santa Monica.
My vision includes transit as a mobility alternate, not a
replacement, to our cars. As I stated before, just inserting transit
into the car based city does not work - unless you intend transit only
for "other" people to get out your way. But, let's hope, in Santa Monica
we still are better than that.
Density is the enemy of the car base city, but it is a requirement
for the transit city, at least within walking distance to the transit
stops. For transit to really succeed, one must prevent people from
needing their own car for any portion of their trip, because once people
start to drive, most of them will just keep going.
If you really wanted to improve traffic, you'd need to get lots of
people off our roads. I do not know of a mechanism to do this in a free,
democratic society. Unless driving becomes un-affordable, there will
always be enough folks who will think that today is 'their day', and
they will drive - and usually they will get stuck.
Every year, the Economist magazine ranks the livability of cities
from all over the globe. And the winner and runner up cities are all
equally congested to us. However, what makes these cities great in spite
of this is what else they have to offer; and that includes strong
alternatives for getting around, such as public transit and bicycles.
What is at stake with your resistance against the Bergamot Transit
Village is whether we all are saying "yes" to a better future, or choose
to bury our head in the sand and hope against reason. The transit net
METRO is building is our life saver in greater LA. We owe it to
ourselves to provide it with the best possible conditions to function;
that means density at the stations, no matter who says what against it.
The Bergamot Station Village is not a perfect project, but this is
not the point. It is much less dense than it was technically allowed to
be, it went through our review process, has been revised and adopted and
has at last been deemed to be in conformance with local development
rules. It deserves to be built now. We cannot rewrite rules on a project
by project basis. If we don't like the outcome of our own rules, then
let's rally to write different ones!
For instance, if we want smaller developments with more design
variety, then stop insisting on parking minimums! They favor
corporations who aggregate parcels so that they can then build one
really large and efficient parking garage. What is happening to Santa
Monica is not that suddenly bad or greedy people (who you call
'corporate developers') took over, rather this is an obvious consequence
of the car centric rules we operate by, rules which you support. If you
keep insisting on making projects car friendly, they will create
environments more akin to Century City rather than the pedestrian,
funky, low key beach paradise we all want to be.
And if you must oppose projects in Santa Monica, I wish you would
focus on all of those projects large or small that are outside the 1/2
mile walking distance from an expo line station. Because those projects
will for sure contribute to more congestion, little by little. Believe
it or not, the Bergamot Station Village might actually work better for
us all than you dare to hope. There is enough pent up demand locally for
a life without the automobile. This project makes that possible. Let
Bergamot Station Village happen and wait and observe.
It might turn out to be good for all of us.
Gerhard W. Mayer, AIA LEED-AP
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