Santa Monica city officials have begun moving forward with a new, extended outreach schedule to get feedback from community members on the plan that will guide the future of the city’s downtown for the next 20 years.
The new schedule will give officials a chance to get broader community input on the plan, now two years in the making. The plan will strive to keep Santa Monica’s thriving downtown a successful destination while also making sure it remains a place for the whole community.
Originally city staff had hoped to get the plan before the City Council for approval by June. The new, more relaxed schedule will likely put the plan before the City Council sometime early next year.
“While a lot of people see eye-to-eye on many things in this long-term vision, there are still a number of outstanding issues that we need to drill into to understand where we can build consensus,” said Principal Planner Peter James, one of the team members working on the Downtown Community Plan (DCP) project.
The DCP is an important document; it’s the blueprint for improved mobility, a wider-range of affordable housing options, better public open space, and many other things that go into improving Downtown Santa Monica.
“The DCP is needed to help Downtown Santa Monica maintain its identity, and build upon its role as the crossroads of community, culture and commerce. The Plan looks forward 20 years and charts a course for preserving the existing scale and character while enhancing downtown’s assets in pace with increasing residential populations, jobs and advances in technology and public transit,” said James. “Without the DCP, zoning regulations that were developed 30 years ago will continue to shape Downtown perpetuating many of the antiquated design practices and restrictive business measures that many community members bemoan today.”
Downtown Santa Monica — the area north of the I-10, south of Wilshire, east of Ocean Avenue, and west of Lincoln Boulevard — is a unique place within the beachside city. It is the most transit-rich area in the city, served by both Metro and Big Blue Bus and, soon, the Expo light rail. It is one of the few places in the city (besides the commercial boulevards and the Bergamot area) where new housing can be built without displacing existing housing. It is also the neighborhood in Santa Monica with the most mix of uses, which makes walking and biking between destinations easier.
In order build consensus around a forward-looking vision, “the outreach program provides for input in a variety of ways – from traditional workshops and group meetings, to a new interactive website where people can leave comments and/or receive answers to their questions, to informative ‘Ted-Talk’-like events and roundtable discussions where community members can talk to the planning team, and importantly – with each other – in order to appreciate the different points of view that are in the room,” he said. “Input will be collected at all turns of the process and provided, unredacted, to the Planning Commission and City Council, and will be used to personalize the DCP for the Santa Monica community.”
The new schedule is really about trying to reach as many people in the community as possible, said Senior Planner Travis Page, who is also working on the DCP. Whether you are a mom with three kids or a retired homeowner or a student, there will be some opportunity to weigh in that fits with your schedule. By offering a variety of ways for people to get involved and give feedback, officials hope to reach as broad and representative a swath of community members as possible.
There will be a series of three events, which will likely start around the end of May and run through the summer, on the broader topics tackled in the DCP: Preservation and Change, Placemaking, and the Future of Mobility.
Since the plan is meant to look two decades into the future, this series will be an opportunity for “showcasing new ideas,” Page said, to address things like building design, pedestrian and bicycle safety, traffic congestion, and activation of public open space.
It’s a chance to “think more openly about what kind of downtown we want,” he said. Ninety percent of the plan is “about preserving and making better quality of life” downtown, he said.
Over the course of the same time, staff will host smaller conversations with members of the community, which Page said will give people a chance to really drill down into the details of the what the plan does.
The DCP, Page said, should have “a little bit of something for everybody.”
For more information about the planning, including an updated schedule of events, visit downtownsmplan.org.