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Santa Monica City Council Doles Out $600,000 for Neighborhood Plan Consultant

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark


Rusty's Surf

Harding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP  law firm
Harding, Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

By Jason Islas
Staff Writer

July 24, 2013 -- The City Council Tuesday agreed to spend nearly $600,000 to get the ball rolling on plans to prep one small Santa Monica neighborhood for the coming light rail that will connect Santa Monica to Downtown Los Angeles.

The City Council tapped John Kaliski Architects -- the team behind the Ocean Park Green Street Project -- to develop a plan that would help the neighborhood around 17th Street and Colorado Avenue absorb the impact from the anticipated 2016 opening of the Expo Light Rail station there and the thousands of daily travelers the new train will bring.

The Plan, said Strategic and Transportation Manager Francie Stefan, is about “creating an opportunity for housing and shared parking around (Memorial) Park.”

Because of the area's past as a former industrial part of the city, “place-making is a big focus, too,” Stefan said. The Plan will create “more pleasant places to be” within the area.

“The Memorial Park Neighborhood Plan area (surrounding the 17th Street Station) is one of a small number of strategically located areas identified in the LUCE near transit that can become a focal point of activity,” staff said.

With a park, three hospitals, Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District headquarters and Santa Monica College nearby, the 17th Street Station will likely see plenty of activity.

Anticipating the impact of the coming light rail, Santa Monica's Land Use and Circulation Element (LUCE) singled-out the neighborhoods surrounding the three light rail stations planned for the bayside city: Memorial Park, Bergamot and Downtown.

According to the LUCE, officials would draft specific plans for those three neighborhoods that, once approved, would set the standards for future development in each neighborhood.

Like the Bergamot Area Plan and the Downtown Specific Plan, “(t)he policies and guidelines established by the Memorial Park Neighborhood Plan will guide the coordination of infrastructure investment in the area and establish the criteria by which future projects are evaluated,” staff said.

However, the Downtown Specific Plan differs from the Bergamot Area Plan and the Memorial Park Neighborhood Plan because the LUCE did not set height and density limits for Downtown.

Since height and density limits for the Memorial Park Neighborhood have already been established by the LUCE, the Plan will focus largely on connecting residents and visitors to the light rail station.

“The integrated land use and transportation policy of the LUCE highlighted the need for the Memorial Park Neighborhood Plan to create strong connections to major destinations in the area,” according to staff.

“The Plan would combine strategies to create multi-modal access to the Light Rail station, shared parking on key sites, and neighborhood integration of the future improved Memorial Park open space including greening of freeway connections,” staff said.

With the Downtown Specific Plan about a year away from approval and the Council voting to adopt the Bergamot Area Plan Tuesday, the Memorial Park Plan is the last of the three area plans to get underway.

And if the previous two plans are a precedent, it will be a while yet before the Memorial Park Plan begins to coalesce. As with the other plans, residents can expect a thorough and lengthy community input process.

“(T)he next step is to augment staff resources with a consultant team that will help perform public outreach, land use and transportation planning, urban design analysis, shared parking analysis, economic and market studies and implementation analysis, ultimately compiling draft and final plans,” staff said.

“The public outreach program of community workshops, meetings, and stakeholder interviews would include outreach to nearby residents and businesses, and including area hospitals, Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District, Santa Monica College, Colorado Avenue businesses and the Pico Neighborhood and Mid-City residents,” according to staff.

The bulk of the funding for the consultants -- $550,000 -- comes from the Strategic Growth Council, a State body that supports sustainable development throughout California.

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