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Visioning Meeting for 5th and Arizona  

By Jason Islas
Special to the Lookout

March 18, 2011 -- Residents and city officials gathered Wednesday at the Civic Center auditorium to share their ideas for a three-acre city-owned property at 5th and Arizona in downtown Santa Monica.

The workshop was held “to get a sense of the common vision for the site,” said Sarah LeJeune, a principal planner for the city.

Downtown Santa Monica has been extremely successful, and Wednesday's meeting was about seeking community input on how best to “expand that success,” LeJeune said.

The City is “using this property as a test case” to “better inform the direction” of development in downtown Santa Monica, added Miriam Mack, economic development manager for the city.

The meeting was divided into two parts – an introduction by staff followed by a cluster session, in which people broke off into groups to share their ideas for the future of the 5th and Arizona site.

Kathleen Rawson, CEO of Downtown Santa Monica, Inc., started the evening by talking about the history of Santa Monica's rehabilitation, beginning with the opening of the Third Street Promenade in 1965.

Rawson reiterated some Land Use and Circulation Element principles, saying that plans for the 5th and Arizona property should be a “microcosm” of overall plans for city renewal.

Phrases like “connectivity” and “space-making” were on the tips of everyone's tongues. But so were less abstract questions, like what about parking?

Downtown Santa Monica will be losing roughly 300 parking spaces if Parking Structure 3 comes down as planned to make way for a new AMC theater in mid-2013.

Jeffrey Tumlin, with Nelson/Nygaard Consulting Associates, a San Francisco-based firm which has worked with the city on many projects, wants Santa Monica to consider the possibility of using part of the property to help offset the parking crunch.

His was certainly not the only voice expressing concern over parking.

The piece of land --“perhaps best known as the home of the seasonal ice skating rink --“currently has several shops on it, as well as Bank of America and a Chase Bank.

Jerry Rubin, a local, voted that Santa Monica make the ice rink a permanent feature of a redesigned 5th and Arizona.

Marios Savvides, a real estate broker who has worked with the city on several projects, would like to see more opportunities for homeowners to buy in downtown Santa Monica. He said that there is a lack of family-size units and “there is a demand for that.”

He and several other people also felt that the site would make a great location for a Trader Joe's.

One Santa Monican said that she would like to see some more “glamour” at 5th and Arizona. Diane Miller said that Santa Monica has “a lot of 'lovely,' not a lot of 'glamor'.”

Miller added that she would like to see a decent place to get a night cap on the new site.

The 5th and Arizona property is approximately 3 acres, covering over three-fourths of the lot between Arizona Avenue and Santa Monica Boulevard, and between 4th and 5th Streets. All the businesses currently on it, including two banks and several retail stores lease the land from the City.

There will be another meeting to envision uses for the site at the Santa Monica Public Library, Main Branch on Thursday, March 24, at 7:00 – 9:00 pm.


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