Santa Monica Lookout
Santa Monica Launches Latest Neighborhood Plan
By Jason Islas
October 14, 2013 -- Residents will kick off the community process Monday for plans to prepare the streets around the future site of one of three future light rail stations in Santa Monica.
The Memorial Park Neighborhood Plan affects a smaller area than the bayside city's other two specific plans -- for the Bergamot Area and Downtown. But it will serve several major institutions and a park.
The document will guide planners as they connect the Metro station at Colorado Avenue and 17th Street with Santa Monica College (SMC), the UCLA Hospital and the School District's headquarters, all within walking distance from the future Expo stop.
“The Plan will combine strategies to create multi-modal access to the Light Rail station, shared parking on key sites, and neighborhood integration of the future improved Memorial Park open space including greening of freeway connections,” staff said.
Monday's meeting, which officials will hold at Crossroads Community Room from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m., will mark the first public input session for the plan.
“At this workshop, we will provide an update on Expo planning in Santa Monica; listen to your ideas for connectivity to the station, park space, community facilities, and neighborhood character; and share survey results to date,” officials said.
The survey, conducted by the City, gauges residents' opinions on a wide variety of planning questions, including the type of housing -- if any -- that should be in the area and how best to improve pedestrian crossings over the I-10 Freeway.
Perhaps the most ambitious proposition to create better crossing into Santa Monica's south side is to cap the freeway between 14th and 17th Streets.
Former Mayor Michael Feinstein said that capping the freeway presents an opportunity to “heal the wound created by cutting our city in half with the 10 Freeway” while creating much-needed green space.
He also wants to see plans to cap the freeway to extend either west to 11th Street or east to 20th Street.
However, capping the freeway is an expensive proposition.
In 2010, City officials studied the possibility of capping a 4,000- to 5,500-square-foot section of the I-10 near Ocean Avenue in order to create a connection between Downtown Santa Monica and a six-acre plot of land that would later become Tongva Park.
With construction costs coming in at an estimated $500 a square foot, City officials determined that the cost of the project would be prohibitively expensive to undertake without some outside funding source.
Feinstein believes that the City should coordinate with the College and the School District to assure that if a measure is placed on the ballot to fund a freeway cap project, it won't overburden taxpayers.
“I believe that when presented with the opportunity to fund such a project and give ourselves dozens of acres of new, open green space, residents will say yes,” he said.
As a cheaper alternative to capping the freeway, City staff is exploring widening the bridges at 14th and 17th Streets.
The other key question posed by the plan, Feinstein said, is what kind of housing should be prioritized in the area. The survey asks residents to weigh in on their housing priorities, including the size of units, levels of affordability and whether family housing should be a focus.
“It seems to me that if you're going to have families live anywhere, you're going to want them to live near a park,” Feinstein said.
The Memorial Park Neighborhood Plan is the smallest of the three specific plans currently being developed by City officials.
The Bergamot Area Plan, which the City adopted in September, will remake 142 acres of Santa Monica's former industrial neighborhood into a residential and creative district. (“Santa Monica City Council Adopts Bergamot Area Plan,” September 12)
City officials are currently studying the environmental impacts of proposed zoning changes in Santa Monica's draft Downtown Specific Plan, a document that will guide development in the city's economic center. (“Santa Monica Won't Study Additional Height in Downtown Plan Environmental Review,” August 14)
The Environmental Impact Report focuses primarily on the area immediately surrounding Memorial Park, as well as the stretch of 17th Street between Pico and Wilshire Boulevards. It also will address the future of the stretch of Colorado Avenue west of 20th Street to Lincoln Boulevard.
But the focus will be preparing the area for the as many as 25,000 passengers a day that will begin arriving into Santa Monica when the Expo Line is scheduled to connect the bayside city to Downtown LA in 2016.
For more information about Monday's meeting or to take the survey, visit http://www.smgov.net/departments/pcd/plans/memorial-park-neighborhood-plan/
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