Smart Column: Four Futures – SM Mirror

Smart Column: Four Futures – SM Mirror

As Paul Krugman so well described, all cities have a core competency: things they do as well or better at a regional or international level than other cities. Think Atlanta for logistics, London for finance, and Los Angeles for entertainment. Some cities have several core competencies: think of New York in terms of finance and entertainment. Our city has four important competencies: beach tourism, shopping and retail (3rd Street Promenade), health (two major hospitals), and automotive (parking on Santa Monica Blvd).

But over time, competencies change: some increase, some decrease, and some disappear. For example, in the early 1960s, we lost a major competency, aviation, when Douglas Aircraft moved its plant to Long Beach, and now even the diminishing airport may be gone by 2028. Looking to the future, we see significant challenges to our current core competencies. During our citizens’ 77 years of life, they will see our beach disappear due to sea level rise. By 2100, we will likely lose the entire Gold Coast along the PCH, the tourism hub west of the Appian Way, and everything west of the Ocean Way/Barnard Road. The McClure Tunnel will be flooded, while the pier could be saved by being raised in time with new caissons. With the wide sand and parking lots gone, our beach will look like the seascape south of where Sunset Blvd meets PCH. There is surfing, but there is not enough beach to support full beach tourism. The year 2100 seems like a long way away until we realize that a tsunami can do in 5 minutes what sea level rise can do in 5 decades. Given the decades it will take to develop an alternative efficiency equivalent to beach gravity, time is clearly not on our side.

Likewise, our next loss of efficiency has already come with the collapse of Amazon’s 3rd Street Promenade, the Covid diaspora, and the long fading of cinema. Of course, it didn’t help that we developed another unintended efficiency over the past few decades by becoming the primary home for unhoused people. Fortunately, our health efficiency appears to be stable in the next quarter century with many residents and regional baby boomers (older people use many health services in the last quarter of their lives). Finally, the automobile sector (sales, parts, gas stations, repairs, parking lots, driving schools, smog checks, etc.) will begin to contract for all known reasons. Electric cars are much cheaper to operate but their initial price is increasingly expensive which will lead to declining sales. More people will abandon private cars due to parking difficulties caused by a new zoning ordinance that eliminated parking requirements and with the rise of self-driving and shared driving options (Zip Car, Uber, etc.). Finally, the rise of micromobility (electric bicycles, golf carts, scooters, etc.) would also reduce demand for cars further.

In short, of our four key competencies, one is strong (health), two are amazing (beach and cars), and one is dead (retail), so we need new competencies to propel our city for the rest of this century. SMART would like to suggest four new competencies for you to consider.

  1. Park Paradise

Santa Monica beaches have always been the lungs of Los Angeles, providing an escape, especially on weekends, from the heat and crowds of the West Side and the San Fernando Valley. With the loss of the beach, we will need to find an alternative and a regional park where the airport is located may be a reasonable alternative if we are on the move. Willingness to give up the $350 million annually that SMO generates for the local economy. But our city also suffers from a complete lack of green open spaces for its residents. So instead of having a large airport park in a remote corner of the city or tucked away in the Santa Monica Mountains, accessible only by car, a series of smaller, 3/4-acre parks could be spread out within a quarter-mile of the city. Every resident. These parks could be paid for by selling about 20% (45 acres) of the airport to fund these 30 new pocket parks measuring approximately 150′ x 200′. By comparison, those 45 acres, if developed to the density of Gilson’s project, could provide about 5,200 units. However, here we focus on the measurable health benefits that parks provide for all age groups. All of these new parks will ideally be connected by bicycle paths to be accessible to all age groups. These pocket parks will have a diverse mix of a full range of active uses (pickleball, basketball, volleyball, Frisbee) and passive uses (picnic, BBQ, playground, dog parks, vegetable gardens, water features, which will be vital with global warming) . The demand for pocket parks will increase dramatically as Sacramento’s new zoning laws eliminate backyards, and more of our residents cram into budget apartments without functional open space. Of course, we know our crowded downtown suffers from a lack of cars, so one of the largest pocket parks has to go to the city-owned parcel of land at 5th and Arizona. By distributing the benefits of the proposed airport park to the entire city (which is in addition to the existing Clover Park), there will be more buy-in from residents regarding our share of the enormous costs of the regional park that we would otherwise have built for Mar Vista. Of course, the state, county and city of Los Angeles would need to fund the bulk of the billions needed to create the airport park if the airport were to close. At this time, the city does not have money to develop airport parks, so selling its land is the only immediate source of funding. Finally, because planting trees takes years, the success of distributed pocket parks would be enhanced by creating a tree ordinance to preserve existing trees that will already be there to shade future pocket parks.

2. Wellness Mecca

The city already has a strong medical establishment (two hospitals, Amgen, Emperor’s College, John Wayne Cancer Institute etc.) but could expand its health infrastructure, e.g., laboratories, clinics and doctors’ offices, to meet the growing demand. The western side is condensing. The city can also shift from crisis-oriented medicine to a city focused on healthy living. Yoga, Tai Chi, meditation classes and countless other activities of direct benefit to residents can be facilitated in our college, educational evening spaces, leisure centers and private spaces. Likewise, reducing pollution is another fulcrum of health. Any incentives the city can add to remove plastics, diesel particles, secondhand smoke and beach pollution would be part of the city’s wellness mandate. Of course, the greatest reduction in pollution (including noise reduction) will come from the electrification of cars with concomitant charging and battery infrastructure.

3, City of Festivals

As our beaches shrink, our hotels, restaurants, etc. can be refocused to serve a series of festivals, conferences, shows and competitions, anchored by our three Expo Line stations: Bergamot Station will be the Art Show Point, the Memorial Park and the Sports Centre. Node, the downtown performing arts node with Barnum Hall, the Greek Theater, the revitalized Civic Auditorium, the Broad Theater, the futuristic Gehry Museum, and the movie theaters on Third Street. Football tournaments could be held when the airport’s three new stadiums are built, as they have already been designed but not yet funded. All these festivals and conventions will replace the effect of the gradual loss of the beach. Every city, big or small, has a special annual event that celebrates something unique about that city. We have a unique location at the end of a freeway and light rail line and only 20 minutes from Los Angeles International Airport with an abundance of hotels for one large event like AFI each month as well as smaller events, for example, a marathon every two weeks. The type of event, festival, show or conference is limited only by our imagination and ability to solve the homeless crisis, which scares tourists and residents. We can be the entertainment destination for all of Los Angeles.

4. Los Angeles bedroom

Alternatively, we could also just become a bedroom community in Los Angeles like Simi Valley or Palmdale, only closer. The difference from those suburban cities is that they have room for families, whereas the development of Santa Monica has constantly destroyed family housing. For profit reasons, we allowed developers to build 3 one-bedroom apartments when they should have built one three-bedroom apartment in the same space. For example, Gilson’s proposed 521-unit project does not have a single 3-bedroom apartment. This relentlessly growing shortage of two- and three-bedroom apartments is driving families out of our city, leading to a collapse in school district attendance (not to mention the upcoming divorce with Malibu). Our current path favors a working tenant with high turnover who has to leave if he or she wants a home job, gets married, has children, or wants a multigenerational family. Since the state is asking us to build 6,000 affordable units in the next eight years but is not financing any of those units, the only way to build that number of units is to put a small percentage (10%) of affordable units in each market. Modified project. Thus, between 50,000 and 60,000 units will be needed to reach the target of 6,000 affordable units. This is a future that will likely make Santa Monica one of the densest cities, if not the densest city in California. Our population will double with concomitant congestion, loss of open space, sunlight, and quality of life, and the complete surrender of all our resilience and sustainability goals.

We are now moving from our city’s core competencies (beach tourism, retail, health, automobiles) of the past seven decades to the competencies of the next seven decades. The potential competencies suggested here aim to broaden our thinking and identify opportunities and conflicts. Because developing new competencies at the urban level takes time, we must start this discussion now and then identify the elements needed to achieve these competencies.

Written by Mario Fonda Bonardi for Smart Santa Monica Architects for a Responsible Tomorrow

Thane Roberts, Architect, Robert H. Taylor AIA, Architect, Dan Jansenson, Architect, Construction and Fire Safety Committee, Samuel Tolkien Architect and Planning Commissioner, Mario Fonda Bonardi AIA Michael Jolly, AIR-CRE.

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