Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words

Is Santa Monica Becoming a Santa Mega-opolis?

by Katie Wilmshurst

Many Santa Monicans are concerned about the upcoming development project scheduled for Arizona Avenue, as its hearing at the city council looms. The unanimous approval to go ahead with the 148 foot tall build over the compromised 84 foot alternative has sparked tensions from the community. Its 12 stories, designed by architect firm Rem Koolhaas and inspired by the hanging gardens of Babylon would transform the picturesque Santa Monica skyline, adding to the already dominating buildings across the city, and would be similar in size to the Santa Monica Place mall.

It goes without saying that this project is an opportunity site. Its 420,000 square feet will include a 225 room hotel and 48 residential houses, along with 200,000 square feet of commercial workspace and a massive 40,000 square feet of retail space.

Many feel the alternative 84 foot build would still bring in these benefits, but, as always, there is a consideration for the amount of money pumped into these projects and the amenities it produces. Indubitably, the aim is to increase Santa Monica's tax base, but with its budget already exceeding $600 million, many feel it is time to start putting locals first. So where exactly is this cut off point? When does a build become too high and the sacrifice of the locals overpowers its potential revenue?

The rise of community network 'Residocracy' and its e-petitions shows just how strongly the local residents feel about this project. This anti development, grass roots residence group has already contributed to the recent rescission of the Hines Development Project and even hopes to ballot the future development of Santa Monica airport. In this case, there is a push to consider the space as resident owned, not city owned, in order to instigate a development focusing on the existing Santa Monicans and not the potential influx of visitors, potentially bringing issues of congestion and traffic. The petition suggests instead to create a 2.5 acre park, much like the 6.2 acre Tongva Park only a few blocks away.

Another cause for concern is the turn away from development restrictions. Santa Monica's Draft Downtown Specific Plan and the Santa Monica General Plan (2010 LUCE) imposed limits on new builds: 76ft in the east and 84ft in the west. If this project goes ahead, it will reach almost double this limit, making these restrictions obsolete. If they aren't upheld, where does it leave developments in the future? Only this time last year, proposals to slow the development of 84 foot or higher buildings were denied by the city council. Furthermore, 3 hotels have already been proposed on Ocean Avenue, ranging from 195 - 300 feet. This is the backbone to the residents' concern; these implications have simply lost their meaning.

The petition argues 'the city of Santa Monica should not be in the development business to try and make a profit', yet it is difficult for profit not to be the fulcrum of any business. Thus we must come to a compromise. Though there are still stages for the project, such as vetting by the Planning Commission and the Architectural Review Board, the development is highly likely. It seems as though the success of this project, regardless of its height, depends upon the people of Santa Monica and their ability to embrace the benefits it can bring.


Reader Comments(5)

Resident writes:

I urge Santa Monicans to NOT VOTE for any Council member who supports this project. Enough is enough.

BrendaBarnes writes:

Good, mostly fair article, but I haven't heard anyone in Residocracy mention wanting a park at 4th and AZ ANYTHING like Tongva Park. Every comment has said we need a real park there, not one of concrete and metal with walkways and elevation levels changing everywhere, rather than someplace to stop, sit down, and on occasion congregate.

Betty2 writes:

Do these City Council members expect to re-elected approving destructive projects like this? Get a clue!

klem writes:

Becoming? We left becoming ages ago. And yes, city staff are in business for themselves. Our community group pushed through parking restrictions in our neighborhood. City staff fought and delayed at every opportunity. They even sent the single most condescending pregnant woman to lecture us about the inconveniences of parking restrictions and tell questioners they were wrong, did not understand and should pay big parking fines for trying to safely unload children outside their own home.

mwinograd writes:

I urge the Santa Monica City Council to rethink this project and the many other development projects that as a whole would transform our city into Miami Beach. The Hines project referendum signature drive surfaced a deep community preference to preserve the beauty of Santa Monica without destroying its skyline. While there may always be tempting community benefit attached to any gargantuan hotel or shopping center or business park, the sum total of these benefits is concrete, not sky.