Kristin McGowan, the new appointee to the City Council, was our featured guest. She explained her support for the controversial Plaza Project, based on the prospect of it providing new, good paying union jobs. She cited her Grandfather’s experience as a beneficiary of the WPA, which gives her a personal appreciation for the need for well-paid, solid employment opportunities, especially in this challenging Covid environment.
When asked about the controversial Miramar project, McGowan said she hasn’t had time to do enough research on the project yet. Learn more about Kristin >
Our other guests were: Richard McKinnon of the Planning Commission and Kevin McKeown, Mayor of Santa Monica. They were both queried at length about the Miramar Project. McKeown is on record that he opposes the 60 high-end condos in the Miramar plan. Both emphasized that NOW IS THE TIME FOR CITIZENS TO VOICE THEIR APPROVAL OR DISAPPROVAL.
PROBLEMS WITH THE MIRAMAR PROJECT:
CRUISE LINEAR MIRAMAR
Historic Palisades Building & New California Building
This is a showcase site identified in the LUCE as a site that could be of exceptional planning and design due to its prominent location, unobstructed ocean views and visual connection to Palisades Park. The Miramar project doubles site development from 262,284 square feet to 502,157 square feet in the Wilmont neighborhood. 71% of the square feet increase is due to 60 condominiums which average 2,833 sq. ft./condo and are estimated to sell for $7.6 - $8.5 million. The site is not currently planned to be started until 2023 and finished 2026. Further work needs to be done to make this a showcase site.
Eliminate the Condos and related Parking Spaces
Eliminating the condos will open up the site and reduce the massive wall on 2nd Street. Luxury condos don’t create a community or benefit hotel workers, the applicant has avoided paying at a minimum $2.4 million in property taxes paid to the City and no transit occupancy tax will be received from them. This is not how Santa Monicans want to develop its Ocean front property. Nor is it a reasonable exchange for giving up a 50 foot building height on Ocean Avenue.
Eliminate the California Building and any Rooftop Bar or Dining and Shift Guest Rooms towards Wilshire
No food or beverage rooftop services should be allowed either in the California location because of the noise impacts to the neighborhood.
Reduce the Massing On California and 2nd Streets
Readjust height of remaining hotel buildings so highest height of 130 feet is closest to Wilshire and not in center of site.
MOBILITY AND CIRCULATION:
Require Main Hotel Entrance to Remain on Wilshire and Eliminate 2nd Street, California and Ocean Entrances
Th e Wilshire main entrance is an established part of the Miramar history that works well. The developer studied all the ways in which the hotel is old and functionally obsolete to justify tearing it down altogether and doubling its size. But what it didn’t appropriately design or study was a functional circulation system for a hotel twice its current size in relation to its existing neighborhood and how best to minimize the traffic and parking impacts.
REAL COMMUNITY BENEFITS THAT ARE COMMENSURATE WITH THE SCALE OF THIS PROJECT
Residents aren’t getting real and needed community benefits that would compensate for the many significant entitlements the developer receives e.g., building up to 130 feet on a Ocean Avenue site zoned for 50 feet maximum building height and permanent burdens to the surrounding neighborhood – in addition to the demolition and 3-year construction, and the unsolved circulation problems; the massing of the hotel in relation to the neighborhood is huge, the 2nd Street hotel wall turns its back on the rest of the city; and the community benefits proposed are de minimis.
I queried Kevin McKeown after the meeting:
On Aug 4, 2020, at 8:39 PM, betzi richardson wrote:
1.) As you have stated several times, you are opposed to the 60 condos for the Miramar: How can and will you block them?
KM: I will argue against them strongly in discussion, and cast my vote against them.
2.) Do the rest of the Council members agree with you?
KM: I do not know yet. First we have to see what the actual proposal is now, as presented to the Planning Commission. Then we’ll see what the Planning Commission does with it. Only after there is a staff report and amended proposal for the upcoming Council meeting will I decide which of my colleagues to discuss it with. We are prohibited by law from having a discussion among more than three of us outside of the public hearing.
We had interesting and informative guests for our meeting, Sue Himmelrich, City Council member, Stephanie Archer, Branch Manager of Wilmont’s own Montana Ave. Branch (17th & Montana) and Patty Wong, Director of Library Services for the City of Santa Monica, and President of the American Library Association for 2021 – 2022.v
Alissa Finerman brought up the need to revamp spacing on Montana to help retail businesses, especially restaurants, suggesting the possibility of developing parklettes as has been done on Main St. This need was seconded by Kara Taub, Director of The Ten Women Gallery. Himmelrich suggested contacting Anju Gupta, Deputy city Manager, and Greg Morena, who is actively involved in this issue.
The Black Agenda and Obama Challenge was discussed, as well as the Independent Investigation of the SMPD response to the events of May 31. HImmelrich hghly recommended attending the Committee for Racial Justice, which has been meeting on the 1st Sunday’s of the month, in VA Ave. Park.
Re: State of the SM Public Library in these Covid days: Wilmont Board member Alissa Finerman was the interviewer ad began with a Gallup poll that showed Americans visited libraries more frequently than musical events, museums, and other cultural activities. SMPL is beginning curbside pickup of book placed on hold (see: smpl.org/curbside) and the return bins are now open for the return of books taken out before the Covid lockdown happened in mid-March. Stephanie outlined many ways in which the library is remaining active in spite of the physical buildings being shut down: ebook demand has doubled since march of last year; movies and music are available through Overdrive/ Libby and Hoopla. Alissa asked how does the library add to the community and Stephanie replied that a new vision is emerging of the library branches as neighborhood services locations. The libraries are providing many services, including online career development, high school scholarships, homework help (once in person, now virtually) , ESL, job searching, workforce development. Stephanie spoke of young kids brought to story time, who have fallen in love with the library—and the librarians have had the pleasure of watching these kids as they are growing up. When asked about Covid protection measures, Stephanie responded that redesigns are in the works to give the libraries proper spacing and plastic shields. Returned books are quarantined for 72 hours. Elizabeth van Denburgh, Wilmont Chair, asked about the budget cuts, which had a huge impact on the libraries. Out of the 5 library branches, on 3 will resume with partial hours when it is safe to do so. Pages who normally would restack the books have all been eliminated, and volunteer re-staffers are welcome. When asked how we can support the libraries, one method would be to join the Friends of SMPL and of course, to donate funds. It’s also possible to attend Board of Library Trustee meetings. Wong explained the library is completely funded by the General Fund, and even though we go after grants, there is little flexibility in the source of income for the libraries, 85% of costs are paying for staff. Wong hopes for revisions of the Personnel code in the future, especially toward the need for specialization in the Youth Services Team.
Mayor Kevin McKeown was also in attendance, but wanted to remain more in his role as a resident of Wilmont.