Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail

Twenty years ago, the City of Santa Monica unveiled a roadmap for the development of our parks and recreational programs. The plan, adopted in 1997, laid out a blueprint for the future. It is time to revamp this plan and revitalize our City’s commitment to our open spaces and recreational opportunities. The first step is to reach out and see what is working, what isn’t and pinpoint where more facilities are needed. You can, and should, participate. Whether you use our parks for an occasional picnic or a relaxing walk, whether you “sweat it out” with an invigorating workout or sport, it is vital that your voice is heard, loud and clear, on what is needed.

Photo: Thinkstock. Deciding what to do with our open spaces is critical for future generations.

Before you take the Santa Monica Parks Master Plan survey online (bit.ly/samoparksmasterplan) think about how accessible our existing parks are to you as you live and work in our city. Can you access a city green space within 1/4 mile of your residence? Is it safe to walk there? Is it safe to play there? Does that park have the facilities you and your neighbors need to find breathing room? Do we have enough space for our children, our grandchildren and our neighbor’s children to run and have fun in a safe environment? Are we providing extraordinary areas for our children, adults, and seniors to be outside improving their wellness? Is our public shade canopy (amount of trees) superior? Does our populace have the opportunity to take part in organized sports and is there room to grow that vital amenity in our community? Is there a children’s playground within walking distance? Does every child in our community have a chance to learn how to swim, for free?

Our community talks about wellness, and it is the new catchphrase for being content and healthy in our city. In an apartment-centric community like Santa Monica with over 11,400 people packed into each square mile of our 8.3 square-miles, our outdoor spaces are even more important than in most urban areas. Combined with the knowledge that we have a sub-par amount of space dedicated to our citizens’ wellness, your taking this survey and being a part of the planning process is critical.

Almost one third of our city’s public high school students are active in sports, creating the need for a portion of our Civic parking lot to become an all-purpose sports field. It’s unfortunate that there are no children’s playgrounds north of Montana Avenue, an area with a high concentration of children. Very few of our residents know that we have a grass-topped reservoir at the top of Franklin Street with glorious views of Hollywood and downtown Los Angeles. That space, Mt. Olivet, has an unnecessary fence around it. A new Mt. Olivet Park should become a reality. It would be a great spot from which to view our legendary sunrise and sunset. You may have noticed the locked tall iron gate at the entry of a sequestered lovely garden on the Arizona Avenue side of the Milken building. Designated as a community benefit at the time of construction, that gate never opens, denying our residents the precious green space their city thought they had achieved.

The era of finding big park space in Santa Monica is over (unless the giant Airport Park becomes a reality). However pocket parks should be the next “in” thing. Euclid Park is an excellent example of that genre. Take a single or double lot, give it a good greening and, Voila! You have a neighborhood park. The City needs the will to make those little peaceful patches of green happen. Community gardeners and even our dogs also compete for open space. You can help make your mark on the parks system by thoughtfully filling out the survey.

This column has previously discussed the idea of an Olympic Art Trail and of fully integrating our city’s history into our parks and streets. Adding such new direction is also part and parcel of a master plan. Our City, concurrently, is looking at the total revamping of Memorial Park. With $20 million pledged from Santa Monica College and the desire to fit a water catchment tank or a new reservoir under Memorial Park, the city is contemplating an entirely new park facility there. Do you want a new gym, pickleball courts, underground parking, and more bells and whistles? Or is it sufficient to add more playing fields for our youth and integrate the Fisher Lumberyard area into the park while keeping the existing gym and other facilities? The creation of a new Memorial Park would cost over $40 Million. A renovation would be less than half that. And, here’s another thought – are our seniors being treated well by our park system? While we still lack park space for everyone, seniors have been allotted the interior of the Ken Edwards building for their recreation needs. Is this a slight to the thousands of active elderly who live here? Shouldn’t they be offered an indoor-outdoor park space that will help keep them healthy and productive? That’s all part of the master plan – one that you can and must influence.

Finally, we are faced with a new high-rise hotel at Ocean Avenue and Santa Monica Boulevard, a revamped historic hotel with added density at Wilshire and Ocean, a proposed complex including hotel, apartments and retail on city-owned land at 4th and Arizona and another hotel that has risen on 7th and Wilshire. You can weigh in about additional park space in our downtown core through the survey. Write notes and speak your mind. Should the large city-owned parcel on 4th Street be reserved as our central park, or leased to a developer for another twelve-story building? You can use the survey (bit.ly/samoparksmasterplan) to weigh in on all of the above concepts by June 30.

 

By Phil Brock for SMart (Santa Monica Architects for a Responsible Tomorrow)

Thane Roberts AIA, Architect, Robert H. Taylor AIA, Ron Goldman FAIA, Architect, Dan Jansenson, Architect, Building and Fire-Life Safety Commission, Samuel Tolkin Architect, Mario Fonda-Bonardi, AIA, Planning Commissioner, Phil Brock, Santa Monica Arts Commission.