Planning for a Livable City: An Open Letter to the City of Santa Monica About the Selection of a New Planning Director
The role of Santa Monica's Planning Director is critically important to the future development (or over-development) of our city. Santa Monica is currently looking to hire a new planning director.
We know developers and their lawyers, who have full and easy access to City Hall, will be pushing hard to fill that position with someone who is favorable to unchecked commercial growth.
RESIDENTS MUST ALSO HAVE A VOICE IN THE SELECTION OF THIS CRITICAL POSITION.
Below is an open letter to the city about the type of candidate residents would like to see as our next Planning Director.
Dear Mayor Bloom, City Councilmembers and City Manager Rod Gould,
We are writing to you with our views concerning a new Planning Director. This position is of critical importance to our City. The new Planning Director will need an in-depth understanding of the policies and actions embedded in the LUCE, and must have the ability to work well with the planning department and our community to attain and enforce them.
Like our current, well-respected Planning Director, we believe that the next person in this position must embody the highest planning principles espoused by the American Planning Association --that the planning process must "pursue and faithfully serve the public interest." And, he/she also must conscientiously uphold our city's own planning mission statement: "Our mission is to create a better community for the people of Santa Monica" and "to enhance and maintain Santa Monica's environment while ensuring a high quality of life for the community."
During the lengthy LUCE process, Eileen Fogarty embodied these principles. She respected and strengthened the rights of citizens to participate meaningfully in long and short-range planning decisions; she strove to give citizens full, clear, accurate and timely information on planning issues; she articulated policies and actions that would best serve the entire community in the face of large private developer interests; and she paid particular attention to the inter-relatedness of decisions and the long range consequences of present actions. All of these principles are in service of the public interest, not private resume-building.
These principles all can be found on the Planning Department's website, but under Ms. Fogarty's leadership these were not mere words. She put these principles into action, which enabled residents to place more confidence in the Planning Department than had previously been the case.
Our City is now at a critical juncture. The last remaining underdeveloped land in the industrial area of Santa Monica is being targeted for over a dozen large-scale, developments, the largest of which is almost 1,000,000 square feet. These projects are all sited in the same traffic-clogged area of our city that is "serviced" by the 26th Street off-ramp of the 10 Freeway; an off ramp that currently is at functional collapse. Never has the issue of inter-relatedness of the environmental impacts of these projects and the long-range consequences been more significant. Recognizing this, the City has partnered with HUD and TOD to do a Master Plan for this entire area.
It will be the responsibility of our new Planning Director to oversee an intelligent Master Plan with specific area plans that require adequate infrastructure to support new development; to understand and enforce the LUCE development standards; and to ensure that any zoning code revisions meet the LUCE goals of protecting neighborhoods and residents from encroaching development, reducing traffic by integrating transportation and land use, and creating a sustainable city with safe streets and open space.
As an essential part of that process, he or she must be committed to continuing to give residents a meaningful role in the development of projects and planning that will impact their daily lives and not give sway to special interests.
And our next Planning Director must plan for a livable city, not a city planned by developers; promote a healthy, sustainable community, which includes reduced traffic congestion, the creation of more walkable and bikeable neighborhoods (especially in this last industrial lands part of Santa Monica) and the promotion of green building and renewable energy.
In addition, he or she needs to secure adequate economic and social studies of the true economic and environmental impacts of the large-scale commercial developments that are in the pipeline. Too often in the past, only the revenue supposedly generated by large new developments has been studied (with wildly unsubstantiated assumptions), not their real environmental and social costs and irreversible consequences.
Finally, Santa Monica has active, informed groups and associations, including newly revived neighborhood associations. The leaders of all of these groups should be participants in the selection process (as was the case when Ms. Fogarty was selected).
(SMCLC Steering Committee)
Santa Monica Neighborhood Groups:
Friends of Sunset Park Board of Directors
Mid-City Neighbors Board of Directors
Pico Neighborhood Association
Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City
Santa Monica Residents:
Nancy Cook Smith
Jon Van Ness
Edward Young, MD
Ava Louise Stanton
Mary Jo Stenger
Miguel Martin Del Campo
Dr Daniel Galamba
Oscar de la Torre
Peter and Sherri Sawaya
Lucy Frances Stone
Charity Luv Colbert