This post first appeared on Sirinya Matute’s personal blog.

Juan, the city council passed the Bergamot Area Specific Plan: I think we can stay. 

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With the passage of a plan for the redevelopment of a very large parcel by a future light rail station in Santa Monica – the council voted 6-1 to approve a plan that was over 3 years in the making on Tuesday night – I feel a little bit more optimistic about the future, and my decision to live here.

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Juan and I are part of a groundswell of millennials who are part of the so-called Great Migration back into the city. He grew up in an Atlantia exurb. I spent my high school years walking along megablocks in the San Fernando Valley.

Also like many young households, we have wondered whether we can afford to settle in Santa Monica.  Santa Monica is a nice place to live, but it also went through a two-decade period of building very little housing. This has had the unfortunate effect of dramatically pushing up the market  on the existing housing stock here for rent and purchase. (Frank Gruber does an excellent job of reinforcing this point time and time again, like he does here in paragraph 7.) Day care in Santa Monica is also expensive (another mismatch in supply and demand).

My concern over the cost of housing here is one of the reasons why I am so thrilled and relieved that the specific plan for redeveloping a large parcel near a future Expo station has been approved.

It was approved 6-1 by the Santa Monica City Council after three years and 43 public meetings. (Thank you Jerry “Peace Activist” Rubin for reminding us, and imploring us to approve the thing already.)

The plan includes density bonuses for developers who construct affordable housing as well as renderings and stipulations for streetscape, open space, our urban forest (read: street trees) and walkability. The plan also talks a lot about making the streets in this grid shared streets. It’s a term I’m very excited about.

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The schematic for the Bergamot Area Specific Plan street grid.

 

Frankly when I saw these renderings, it made me think, I COULD BE HERE WITH MY (FUTURE) KIDS. And that was really gratifying.

What Nebraska Avenue looks now and could look in 10 years
What Nebraska Avenue looks now and could look in 10 years
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Nebraska Avenue in 20 years

 

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I, for one, am optimistic about this plan. I am excited about the influx of retail, housing, and office space we will be welcoming into this area. The area will be well-served by transit (both Expo rail and buses). This development will attract people who want to live a car-lite/car-free lifestyle of varying ages.

I’m not sorry that Bergamot will not serve people who are heavily addicted to their cars. Last time I checked, we need to lessen our acquiescence to the automobile through our built environment. We should not be requiring the construction of infrastructure that increases or encourages car use. Also, I heard that there might be a crazy fire sale on houses in car-oriented suburbs within the next seven years. Check it out here. I certainly don’t plan to move there.

I feel confident that this plan, if we are able to implement it, will do an excellent job of planning for the transportation and mobility needs of millennials and Santa Monicans not yet born or not yet residents. The document plans for a future that does not include (as much?) dependence on a car, which is critical for retaining millennials as we get older and start our families. Thankfully Santa Monica already has excellent schools, a conundrum that many of our friends living in other cities are facing.

So when I saw the plan, I pointed to renderings like the ones I posted here and said to Juan, We can stay. We can stay. And with the passage of the plan, I feel like the city council has sent a clear signal of confidence and of a welcome to millennials who might come live here. We can’t move to  Portland to live the dream of the 1990s, but with this passage, we look forward to living the dream of the 21st century in Santa Monica. Thank you.