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Santa Monica Neighborhood Group Conducts Height Survey

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark


Rusty's Surf

Harding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP  law firm
Harding, Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

By Jason Islas
Staff Writer

July 11, 2013 -- The Wilmont Neighborhood Coalition asked residents of the area it represents to voice their opinions on development and height in Santa Monica, preempting a City-sponsored survey on the same topic.

As part of an annual mailing sent out by the City to residents in each neighborhood district on behalf of the various neighborhood groups, Wilmont included a short survey sent to households between Wilshire Boulevard and Montana Avenue, home to about 22,000 residents.

Wilmont's survey comes ahead of a City-commissioned $30,000 survey that promises to take a city-wide poll to gauge residents' position on height and development in Santa Monica.

“This year, Wilmont decided to include a survey in its newsletter,” said Reinhard Kargl, vice chair of the Wilmont Neighborhood Coalition..

The “overwhelming majority of respondents said that overdevelopment, traffic and parking are the most severe problems in our neighborhood,” Kargel said.

Kargl said that the groups have tabulated 356 responses to the short survey, which asks residents to respond to seven questions and leaves a space for additional comments.

When asked to choose their biggest concerns about Santa Monica, the survey offers residents several choices: adequate parking, over development, crime, homelessness, bike lanes/bike parking.

Kargl said that 238 marked “over development” as one of their concerns. According to Kargl, 228 marked “traffic” and 154 marked “homelessness.”

Only 87 were concerned about crime and 61 about bikes, Kargl said.

The second question asks, “Do you feel the quality of life in Santa Monica is better or worse than it was 5 years ago?”

While 64 thought life had gotten better in the beachside city, 220 said it was worse.

The next three questions asked residents to weigh in on how much of an impact, on a scale of 10 to 1, traffic, parking and development have on the quality of life in Santa Monica. Development scored an average of 8.2 while traffic and parking scored 8.7.

When asked how important they believed four- to six-story height limits are in “maintaining the character of Santa Monica,” respondents voted an average of 8.9 on a 1-to-10 scale.

While there was a question asking respondents whether they would support a moratorium on “exemptions from zoning laws until a permanent zoning law was enacted,” Kargl did not report the results.

There are some who believe that the survey was not rigorous, since it required residents to pay their own postage, which could limit the number of people who respond.

And some believed the questions were leading.

“They're very specific about how they feel about development in general and the Miramar in particular,” said former Wilmont Chair Valerie Griffin.

Griffin was head of the neighborhood organization until last summer when the board endorsed the Miramar redevelopment project, leading other members to demand the election of a new board. The protracted dispute eventually ended with the old board's resignation.

An introduction to the survey outlines the group's feelings toward development.

“We have 37 development projects in the pipeline: from the complete redesign of downtown Santa Monica to the development of the Bergamot area to the rebuilding of the Miramar hotel, which would add 120 condominium units in a 21 story tower and 9,300 square feet of retail space,” the survey reads.

“These developments will put additional stress on City infrastructure, parking, traffic, quality of life and may fundamentally change the character of Santa Monica forever,” it continues.

The survey goes on to explain that the City is currently writing new zoning standards.

“In the interim, it is the wild, wild West out there and our neighborhood groups are diligently working to assure that the residents who will live with the results of today's decisions long after the developers go away are heard and protected.”

Kargl said that the Coalition is working on an official blog post to announce the results.

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