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.


Below is an open letter to the city about the type of candidate residents would like to see as our next Planning Director.


May 2011

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).

Thank you.

Victor Fresco
Diana Gordon
Sherrill Kushner
Susan Giesberg
Jeff Segal
(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:
Maryanne Solomon
Peter Tigler
Bill Bauer
M Landsberg
Peter Altschuler
Barbara Harshberger
Paula Goldman
Dwayne Howard
Lee Jackson
Joanne Curtis
Patti Harburg-Petrich
Thunder Levin
Matt Peterson
Susan Graham
Fred Alexander
Les Goldman
Zina Josephs
Audrey Parker
Ellen Schmalholz
Sylvia Levin
Lorraine Sanchez
Dish Taylor
Judith Spector
Jacob Samuel
Chloe Ballatore
Ida Unger
Robert Scura
Daniel Jansenson
TY Wapato
Bruce Weiller
Cathy Larson
Naomi Lieberman
Mia Babalis
Susan Scarafia
Dorothy Fitzsimons
Karin Morris
Temple Mathews
Stephanie Furlong
Ruthann Lehrer
Jennifer Polhemus
Ruthann Shanley
Cathrine Snedaker
Julena Lind
Sasa Blackoff
Peter Davison
Liv Estrup
Mona Moore
Frances Troll
Aaron Furlong
Nora Hamill
Kathy Knight
John Redmond
Elena Estrin
Steve Kandell
John Meador
Larry Arnstein
Philip Hendricks
Cristyne Lawson
Leon LeBuffe
Barbara Eichorn
Mary Gordon
Nancy Cook Smith
CJ Bigelow
Mike Bigelow
Dave Stevenson
Ellen Brennan
Abby Hellwarth
Phil Harnage
Neil Feineman
Blythe Stratton
Mary Gordon
Linda Milligan
Pratricia Bruno
Jon Van Ness
Jeffrey Peak
Shannon Kallin
Suzanne Verge
Kathleen Masser
Phyllis Bernard
Maynard Ostrow
Scott Kelso
Scott Spell
Carol Landsberg
Bryna Skuro
Miriam Ludwig
Brenda Anderson
Judy Lamm
Glenda Pinney
Shirley Kelson
Sharon McGeeney
June Young
Edward Young, MD
Aliceann Grusin
Jim Jusko
Janet Adams
Joliann Baum
Seth Rosen
Ava Louise Stanton
Jeffery Kaltreider
Mary Rushfield
Avery Cobern
Susan Rosett
Gale Feldman
Lori Levitt
Alicia Wille
Diane Fresco
Robert Braslau
Graciela Triantogiannis
Anthony Stenger
Mary Jo Stenger
Janet Manning
Eric Manning
Aileen Preonas
Kay Ward
Maria D'orsogna
Mary Hubbell
Fielden Harper
E Aries
Peter Spelman
Jerry Persky
Phyllis Sorter
Kathleen Burke
Beau Marks
Ann Payson
Liz Dubelman
Mary Hardy
Kathryn Raddon
Patricia Nugent
Jeffery Nugent
Albin Gielicz
Ellen Hannan
John Williamson
Don Gray
Lisa Cooper
James Kolsrud
Miguel Martin Del Campo
Ruth Rosen
Betsy Katz
Sally Allen
Nadia Lawrence
Warren Allen
Lewis Perkins
David Latham
Helen Spaulding
Nicole Lopez
Laurie Yehia
Dr Daniel Galamba
Sharon Griffin-Galamba
Ed Harker
Catherine Butterfield
Devon Susholtz
Liz Oyenoki
Wes Thompson
Jeff Gordon
Ilse Rosenstein
Cathy Milliken
Gregg Heacock
Rochelle Fanali
Joseph Digati
James Gertley
Oscar de la Torre
Maria Loya
Peter and Sherri Sawaya
Eric Shapiro
Phyllis Chavez
Dolores Sloan
Jennifer Galamba
Larry Teitloff
Neera Goyal
Diane Citron
Gayle Cooper
Lucy Frances Stone
Francine Fanali
Tan Arnold
Bob Wolff
Louise Steiner
Hal Stellini
Roger Templeton
Judy Hopkins
Aura Talley
Helen Auerbach
Patricia Klowden
Sue Miller
Doris Sosin
Linda Sullivan
Charity Luv Colbert
Mark Kreher
Mary Marlow
Dorothy Beals