Letter To The Editor: The Different Visions For The Future Of Santa Monica

Thursday, 20 Feb 2014, 8:26:00 AM

Letter To The Editor

A rendering of the mixed-used Hines project at 1681 26th Street that will total 765,095 square feet of housing, creative office space, and restaurant and retail space.
Courtesy Of The City Of Santa Monica
A rendering of the mixed-used Hines project at 1681 26th Street that will total 765,095 square feet of housing, creative office space, and restaurant and retail space.

Dear Editor,

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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