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Pico Neighborhood Plan a Priority for Santa Monica Council

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By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

January 10, 2018 -- A bold proposal first floated almost two decades ago to link the city’s downtown and Civic Center with a park atop a massive deck over the I-10 Freeway is not an immediate priority, the City Council decided Tuesday.

The Gateway Master Plan could take a back seat temporarily to make time for focusing on issues like the emergency ban on "monster" mansions and the Pico Neighborhood Plan.

Much of the work on the Gateway plan has already been done, and it is now primarily an “engineering” matter, City Manager Rick Cole told the City Council Tuesday.

Even with a pause, the Gateway can meet its 2021 deadline, Cole said.

Remaining as a top priority for the Department of Planning and Community Development is the Pico Neighborhood Plan.

The neighborhood -- the city’s least affluent and home to its largest Hispanic population -- has been a “dumping ground” for projects unwanted elsewhere in well-heeled Santa Monica, neighborhood activists say.

Recently, residents have been worrying that escalating real estate prices have led to increased gentrification ("Mapping Shows Pico Neighborhood Ground Zero for Skyrocketing Evictions in Santa Monica," August 27, 2015).

The first aim of the plan, City planners said, is to “minimize” displacement of existing residents and to use zoning to protect the character of the neighborhood.

Outreach in the community is just beginning, said David Martin, the director of planning and community development. Council Member Gleam Davis urged him to reach more than “the usual suspects.”

Council Member Terry O’Day said Martin’s staff should look beyond the Pico Neighborhood Association, the plaintiffs in a high-profile Voting Rights lawsuit against the City.

Overall, the City hopes to create a comprehensive plan for the Pico area, but planning staff warns "experience has shown that land use planning tools are not ideal for tackling such challenges.”

“The staff recommend a narrower approach led by PCD to address zoning issues related specifically to protection of neighborhood character and retaining affordable housing,” staff said.

“If the Council wishes to pursue a more comprehensive approach, staff recommends this be a multi-departmental effort outside the scope of setting PCD priorities.”

A long line of speakers showed up at Tuesday’s meeting to lobby for which -- if any -- priorities the City should put at the top of its list this year.

Preservationists asked that an update of City’s landmarks law be prioritized, and slow-growth proponents railed against all the building planned, which amounts to about 3.8 million square feet in various projects that have been stalled in the City development pipeline, which only recently began to flow again.

Several spoke in favor of the Pico Neighborhood Plan, although some longtime residents said they had not been included yet in City planning.


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