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Pico Neighborhood Group Annexes Downtown Santa Monica, Civic Center

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By Jason Islas
Lookout reporter

May 2, 2014 -- The Pico Neighborhood Association (PNA) has voted to expand its boundaries from the historically Latino and African-American neighborhood to encompass part of Downtown Santa Monica and the Civic Center area.

The move at the annual PNA meeting in March went largely unnoticed by local media for two months. But the new boundaries now appear on the City’s official map of Santa Monica’s seven recognized neighborhood organizations.

“We’re just doing what we think is best for the rights of the residents of Santa Monica,” said PNA Co-Chair Oscar de la Torre, noting that some 30 members voted to extend the boundaries.

The organization’s original borders stretched from Centinela Avenue to Lincoln Boulevard and Santa Monica Boulevard to Pico Boulevard, de la Torre said.

But with Downtown experiencing a housing boom in recent years, de la Torre said that residents living in the largely commercial district should have a voice. Downtown is bounded by the I-10 freeway on the south, Wilshire Boulevard on the north, Ocean Avenue to the west and Lincoln Boulevard to the east.

“We want to give those residents an opportunity to join forces with an established organization,” he said. “We have a responsibility to provide representation to defend residents.”

While de la Torre said that the PNA had spoken to people “west of Lincoln” before voting to extend the boundaries, he couldn’t say if they were residents of Downtown Santa Monica.

And none of the residents living in the PNA’s new boundaries could weigh in at the annual meeting, since they had not yet been made part of the group, Oscar said.

Barbara Filet, a resident of the Pico Neighborhood and member of the PNA, said that she had liked the idea of extending the organization’s boundaries west, especially since a new bike route will be built along Michigan Avenue through the neighborhood to the beach.

But she said she thought that the I-10 made more sense as a northern border for the new territory west of Lincoln Boulevard.

The neighborhood groups in general disseminate information to their members about issues that may affect their residents. They have also been proactively organizing against development projects through the city, some of which are located Downtown.

While the PNA made the first move, others had been considering the Downtown fertile ground for the city’s eighth neighborhood group.

In order to turn Downtown into more of a mixed-use district, in 1996, the City Council voted to incentivize residential construction. Between 2000 and 2010, the District’s residential population jumped from 1,340 to 3,075, according to Downtown Santa Monica, Inc., the nonprofit that oversees management of the district.

Since 2010, hundreds of additional housing units have been built Downtown or are in the development pipeline, according to the City’s website.

In early March, Ellen Hannan, the treasurer of Mid-City Neighbors group, said that there was interest in organizing a new neighborhood group for the area. (“Downtown Santa Monica Could Get Neighborhood Group,” March 5, 2014)

Hannan said that, while some residents had asked to join established groups, Downtown was a unique neighborhood and should have its own.

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