Things that grow in Santa Monica Gardens

It's not all politics at political events. This was in the garden at our Signing Open House. Lovely.

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Standing against the tide

The Planning Commission recently looked at a float up proposal to develop the Fred Segal site on 5th street.

It's currently a one level white brick building. Not great but innocuous. (Although expensive to buy stuff!) Its proposed replacement is a series of structures that add up to an 84-foot high, 4.5 FAR, four-building construction. A float up is a chance to give opinion before the real work begins.

The SM Daily Press reported "Planning Commission likes building design for Fred Segal site."   My view was different.

Quote:

For Commissioner Richard McKinnon, the size of the proposed project is hard to grapple with.

“The problem is I have a very visceral reaction to the bulk and the massing of this and it’s an inescapable thing that every time I look at it I feel that this is just too big a building on this particular lot,” he said. “I can’t get away from that. I’ve looked at it in relationship to the black building beside it, which I think is a big building, and the other buildings that around it. It’s not a big building if you’re building in New York but it is a big building in the context of Santa Monica.”

Most commissioners lauded the design.

End quote.

“The problem is I have a very visceral reaction to the bulk and the massing of this and it’s an inescapable thing that every time I look at it I feel that this is just too big a building on this particular lot,” he said. “I can’t get away from that. I’ve looked at it in relationship to the black building beside it, which I think is a big building, and the other buildings that around it. It’s not a big building if you’re building in New York but it is a big building in the context of Santa Monica.”
Most commissioners lauded the design. - See more at: http://smdp.com/planning-commission-likes-building-designs-fred-segal-lot/140857#sthash.uSvbauzK.dpuf

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Planning Commission likes building designs for Fred Segal lot - See more at: http://smdp.com/planning-commission-likes-building-designs-fred-segal-lot/140857#sthash.uSvbauzK.dpuf
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Pedestrian Plan for Community Meeting

A new focus on walking in Santa Monica is set for a Planning Commission workshop meeting on September 22. This is a key element in creating a Pedestrian Action Pan. People want to walk, but they worry about accidents and safety. Wilshire has had a spate of disastrous incidents, and crossing this huge road can be like playing Russian roulette.

So the workshop is a useful focus. There are new tools to help. A company called Human has created an iPhone app that runs in the background of the phone and automatically detects activities like walking, cycling, running, and motorized transport. It then makes a map. (See Los Angeles walking—visualizations are solely based on aggregated data from people using the Human app.)

Getting serious will particularly help seniors who complain rightly about the danger of our roads. Road incidents just shouldn't happen. Hence the need for a plan targeting priority areas to get people moving. Once they're on the sidewalk, they can walk safely.

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Subaru steps back on Lincoln

Ron Davis, who owns Santa Monica Subaru, has now withdrawn a request for a Development Application on Lincoln. Davis had wanted to build a whole-block new car dealership for his Subaru franchise.

This is interesting because Mr. Davis has spent quite a lot of money in recent days—and quite a lot of time in the last few weeks—speaking to neighbors, addressing groups and attempting to gain support for his proposed venture. Davis has to move Subaru from his current spot on Santa Monica Boulevard within a year or two. He had found a site on Lincoln, but the LUCE didn't allow car dealerships on South Lincoln. Davis then began the process of community outreach.

In my meeting with Mr. Davis, I was quite direct in not favoring car dealers south of the 10 freeway. I was also  not very interested in seeing whole-block businesses emerge on Lincoln. It is concerning to think of a set of whole-block Best Buy, CVS, Staples—one after another down that road. The conditions are difficult; lots are narrow and there is no alley for most of Lincoln.

Yet in watching Mr. Davis operate, Subaru appeared to be making some ground in the community. Many people were prepared to entertain the idea even though there was vehement opposition from many others. There is clearly a desire to change the streetscape. And quickly.

In essence, the area Davis had targeted will now likely remain very much the same for quite a while. Many of the leases of the existing smaller automotive businesses are about to run out; if re-signed, the term is usually 5 years plus. So there will remain a line of small-scale auto repair shops opposite Albertson's.

Mr. Davis's legal team couldn't specify the reason he withdrew.

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Santa Monica's drought strategy isn't working yet.

Yesterday Santa Monica's Office of Sustainability put out a press release that showcased a citywide failure on water conservation. California has only about three months before the worst drought in decades smash's everyone lifestyle to smithereens. Yet apparently, instead of reducing water consumption by 20%, in Santa Monica usage went up 2%. That's a statewide trend too. So now conservation efforts will have big fines to compel usage restrictions. What will it take for people to cut down the water usage?

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The July 4 Parade

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After 8 years the Santa Monica July 4 parade is almost perfect. It draws enough people to line Main Street. They cheer. The marchers cheer, everyone waves a flag, everyone wears red, white and blue, it's kind of small town and it reflects all parts of our city without comment. And the thing is, that everywhere across America today, in every town and community  people are holding exactly the same sort of parade. Of course they probably couldn't get as much fun out of it as we all did this morning. Cheer on the Ocean Park Association for running it every year and credit Lori Nafshun who came up with the idea originally.

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The truly cool roof is coming

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A week or so ago, the often arcane Zoning Ordinance Update discussion at the Planning Commission reached the roof.

This was an opening. I suggested we insert a requirement for cool roofs in the code. We shall see what the Planning Department returns with, but my intent at that moment, and moving forward, was to insert a conservation measure. 

Popularly, it's sometimes thought of as being about a "white roof." And the color could be part of it. But the wider intent is to turn Santa Monica’s roofs into either a place to support renewable energy sources like solar or wind, or simply install solar reflective surfaces that inhibit external heating or cooling and, consequently, make interior heating or cooling unnecessary. A small change that can bring a big result.

Read more about cool roofs.

Read more about Richard's stand on the issues facing Santa Monica.

 

 

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The Sad Ponies of the Sunday Market

Sunday Farmers Markets on Main are one of Santa Monica's gems. They are relaxed, crowded, but intimate and neighborly. You always have a sense that everyone has just rolled out of bed and headed down there to get something for breakfast, or to cook for a later get together of friends. 400 bikes are valeted every week. There are plenty of children. It's perfect in so many ways.

But there are also the little horses walking in constrained, never-ending circles. Tied up, they trudge their tight paths so slowly. Most of us have probably not thought that much about these ponies beyond their obvious discomfort. Marcy Winograd has. Her new site FreeThePony.org escalates the pressure on the pony operators to stop. Marcy has seen something ugly we all should have. She wants to solve the problem and get the pony show stopped. She is asking tough questions and raising hard issues

The operators are clearly profiting from the horses. The city runs the markets. It's impossible to understand how these operators can continue if enough residents speak up and register their unhappiness. For a city that takes animal welfare seriously, this must change, and change quickly.

Sign the petition (I did), and complain, and let's rectify the cruel oversight that has allowed these ponies to become exploited under our many eyes.

Sign here: FreeThePony.org

 

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The Santa Monica Daily Press makes a personal judgement

From a year ago.  Santa Monica Daily Press,  May 3 2013.

Planning Commissioner Richard McKinnon, well known for his confrontational style with developers, sees the unorthodox methods used at both the City Council and Planning Commission level to push for higher environmental standards as a sign that some issues were going unaddressed.

He championed parking standards in March, forcing forward a community-wide series of discussions to clear the air after a debate over reduced parking requirements for new construction begun by a now-exiled consultant erupted into widespread anger amongst community members.

"It enables us to put things on the agenda that are of interest and value," McKinnon said. "It reflects an unmet need."

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Giving Samohi an identity.

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Richard McKinnon