How high should Santa Monica Boulevard's new buildings be? Will taller buildings be allowed all along the 2.8 mile stretch of the city’s main road or clustered together? Where should green space be located? How should the land in the city be used?
These are some of the questions residents will discuss Monday as the city holds one final public workshop regarding the General Plan—a proposed document that will guide development in the city for the next 25 years.
“We need to be thoughtful about how much development we approve and where we put it,” said Councilman John D’Amico, who pushed for this final workshop before the City Council votes on the plan in September. “We want to make sure everyone has a chance to have their say before we approve the General Plan.”
The General Plan workshop will take place Aug. 1 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. in . D’Amico and members of the city’s Planning staff will do a short presentation and then residents will break out into smaller groups for further discussion. Later, there will be time for public comment.
“This will be a much more relaxed environment for a discussion of the General Plan than a City Council meeting,” said Bianca Siegl, a senior planner who oversees the General Plan. “There’ll be time for everyone to talk and make their opinions known.”
Mixed-use on Santa Monica Boulevard
A major focus of the workshop will be mixed-use buildings—retail at street level with residential on the floors above—along Santa Monica Boulevard. Current city zoning laws allow for 45-foot tall (four-story) mixed-use buildings, but if a developer meets certain other requirements, those buildings can go as high as six stories.
“There are many mixed-use opportunities for Santa Monica Boulevard,” D’Amico said. “We really want the residents to talk about the kind of mixed-use properties they’d like to see and how tall they want them.”
“Neighborhoods all have different ideas about how they want to be organized,” said D’Amico. “If one side wants something, another side might not. If the Eastside wants taller mixed-use buildings, but the Westside doesn’t, we can write the General Plan to reflect that.”
While the focus of this meeting is Santa Monica Boulevard, Siegl is quick to point out that any area of the city is up for discussion.
“If people want to make comments about other areas, we will make note of it,” she said.
Date of workshop in question
Some residents have criticized the city for scheduling the workshop on the night before the annual National Night Out on Tuesday, Aug. 2. Organizers of those neighborhood block parties say they will be too busy preparing for National Night Out to attend the General Plan meeting.
Siegl reports the workshop was scheduled for Monday, because it was one of the few nights West Hollywood Park Auditorium was available. Normally, there would be a City Council meeting held that night, but the council voted to adopt a once-a-month summer schedule, thus freeing the auditorium.
“We had to hold it between the July Council meeting and the August one, and there weren’t many available nights,” Siegl said.
Residents don’t feel heard
Other residents say the draft of the General Plan did not take their concerns into consideration and are skeptical this workshop will make any difference.
“I know some residents feel like they weren’t heard at some of the earlier meetings about the General Plan,” said D’Amico, who was to the council in March. “They will be heard at this meeting.”
The city’s first meeting regarding the General Plan was held in February 2008, with 200 people in attendance. Subsequent workshops were held in November 2008, January 2010 and July 2010. Additionally, the city conducted focus groups in March 2008 and held several neighborhood meetings in September 2008.
Since the draft was released in June 2010, the city has received 63 letters from residents and businesses critiquing it, some just a few sentences long, others pages long. The City Council has discussed the General Plan nine times with dozens of residents speaking during public comment time.
Siegl assures that resident input is being heard and changes are being made to the plan. She points out that the initial draft included mixed-use along Melrose and Robertson, but that has subsequently been altered to reflect residents’ wishes.
“We’ve taken the residential off of Melrose and some parts of Robertson. Those streets will just be commercial now,” she said. “If there are changes people want, Monday is the time to tell us about them.”