When discussing the issues with the opponents of Santa Monica's new Civic Center plan, it becomes immediately apparent that traffic is not the real issue. Even more curious is that the actual urban design is rarely discussed. What comes out of the traffic complaint is some number of trips per day that, like many statistics, sounds high when taken alone, but is not alarming when compared to the whole city.
In fact, the new Olympic Boulevard extension should actually reduce impacts along 4th, especially at Colorado and Pico. Remember, too, mass-transit linkages and the plan's bikeway, which weren't counted, will give greater options to those who can now live within walking or riding distance of downtown offices, shops and entertainment. And didn't Tom Hayden even suggest relocating Santa Monica College here? Since when did we fear trips generated from going to parks and housing? Would we stop all parks and housing or cultural projects just because they generated car trips?
No, the real issue behind the opposition (and we don't all have to be former anti-war protesters to figure this out) is the RAND Corp. Labeled by opponents as a "mega-development," RAND actually has had its potential development volume reduced from 3 to 1.5 times the site area (typical or normal throughout the city), and voters should be aware that the buildings are not part of this plan and their designs are still subject to the expected public scrutiny that is appropriate to such a location.
The community participation workshops have seen RAND's options moved around the area in various designs knowing full well they would likely have to go along with them. Why? Because they need the city and this Civic Center Working Group to make a place for them. They cannot do it alone (such is the opposition and importance of the location), and they are willing to go with what comes from professional planning plus community input.
It may not be what they would do by themselves, but they know that it is in no one's interest for them to fail. That is, except those people who want to punish them for sometimes being on the wrong side. I have seen this and I can understand the feelings, but I would not be so selfish to put that in front of generations of others who don't even remember or just want some green space and new housing options, not to mention a needed police facility.
I teach design and I can say that few good works, if any, spring from such negativity or pessimism. The new Civic Center Specific Plan sprang from years of lengthy, inclusive dialogue, and the old rhetoric that stands against it is just that, old.
The real progressive thing to do here is to trust the public process and not ask for retribution. Vengeance is not a city planning or urban design strategy. We are looking for the greater good. Please vote yes on Props. D & E to continue the evolution of the city.
GREG SPIESS, Santa Monica