Santa Monica Lookout
Former Santa Monica Council Members Weigh in on Downtown
By Jason Islas and Jorge Casuso
January 22, 2013 -- As the Santa Monica Planning Commission prepares to weigh in on the Downtown Specific Plan Wednesday night, former Council members Richard Bloom and Bobby Shriver shared their thoughts on the future of a thriving commercial district they helped shape.
Bloom, who was elected to represent the 50th State Assembly District in Sacramento after serving 13 years on the council, and Shriver, who left after eight years to spend more time with his two young daughters, sat down with The Lookout last month to share their thoughts on Downtown.
Both see a bright future for our successful district, which has emerged as a full-fledged neighborhood while retaining the uniqueness that has made it a popular destination for visitors and locals alike.
“It's a vibrant, exciting environment," said Bloom, who was elected to the council in a special election in April 1999. "We've created a neighborhood. There's a sense of place that's very unique.”
Shriver, who was elected to the council in November 2004, believes it's important for Downtown to remain a "gritty, real place" that is "spontaneous," a place where "stuff happens."
“It feels alive,” he said. “I think the street performers are great. They are very idiosyncratic. The randomness of it is fun. I could see wanting street life to be real. You can't become a mall.”
Over the past decade, Downtown has seen a housing boom that has added thousands of new residents thanks to City policies that encourage residential development.
“Our ability to create a real neighborhood Downtown is one of the things I'm really proud of,” Bloom said. “One of the most important things about placemaking is to have people there. And you don't want to just have folks who work, you want to have residents. That creates an environment that is vibrant in the day and the nighttime”
Shriver would like to see the housing boom continue. “We need to build a lot more housing along the boulevards,” he said.
But Downtown, both Bloom and Shriver agree, faces challenges it must tackle to stay competitive with neighboring venues such as Downtown Culver City, the Westside Pavilion in Westwood and the Grove in the Fairfax District of Los Angeles. One of the key issues, both agree, is parking.
“How we manage the parking is not just building structures and refurbishing them," Bloom said. "It's the pricing plan, it's the new meters and how we use them, it's encouraging people not to park and to cycle and take the bus."
Both former council members are excited about the anticipated arrival Downtown of the Expo Light Rail line by 2016, a project both of them championed.
“It's going to bring a lot of current people in on a new mode of transit and we're going to see many new folks,” Bloom said. The new rail line also “gives opportunities for Santa Monicans to go the opposite direction with something other than a car or a bus.
Shriver is confident that Downtown, especially with the arrival of light rail, will remain competitive thanks to the work of Downtown Santa Monica, Inc. (DTSM).
“We're competing with people; we've gotta hustle.”
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