An early 20th century building at Santa Monica and 5th Street features local shops and restaurants on its ground floor, enlivening the experience for passersby.
An early 20th century building at Santa Monica and 5th Street features local shops and restaurants on its ground floor, enlivening the experience for passersby.

What can the last 150 years of Santa Monica’s history teach us about the next 20? A lot, city officials hope.

This Saturday at 10 a.m., the city will continue its series of workshops on preservation and change in Downtown Santa Monica with a panel discussion on what it means to maintain the area’s historic character while evolving to address the needs of the future.

“We have been out doing extensive community outreach to elicit feedback on the Downtown Community Plan and hearing what people think works and what doesn’t in the Downtown,” said Travis Page, one of the city planners working on the Downtown Community Plan, which will guide change in the city’s urban core over the next two decades.

“This workshop will provide insight to the diversity of sentiments our community members and leaders have while recognizing the unity of our community where common goals and views are shared,” he said. “While most people think of preservation as saving older buildings, we want to emphasize that it goes much further than that and is also about maintaining the look and feel of the Downtown, including things like sidewalk design, street trees, access to light and air, and other elements that make our Downtown remarkable.”

Saturday’s workshop follows a series of walking tours that the city co-hosted with the Santa Monica Conservancy that gave the more than sixty participants a chance to tour historic Downtown Santa Monica while also looking at some adaptive reuse of older buildings and newer buildings that have been designed to help maintain the historic street life.

Next Sponsor

For example, city officials and conservancy volunteers who led the walks looked at how historic buildings often have small storefronts that open directly onto the sidewalk, inviting passersby to engage more directly with the building and creating a more vibrant experience for those walking past.

“The events were great and most seemed fascinated to learn about the history of their Downtown and also how the Plan looks to the past to help shape the future – what did we get right in the past and how do we build on those successes?” Page said of the walking tours.

“Where did we go wrong, and what can the Plan do to help correct those issues? There was an emphasis on how, when done right, new buildings can live in harmony with the older structures that help tell Santa Monica’s rich history,” he said.

Saturday’s panel discussion is free and open to the public. It will feature Robin Hughes, CEO of affordable housing development company Abode Communities, Hamid Behdad, President of Central City Development Group, and real estate investor Dan Rosenfeld.

For more information about the event and to RSVP, visit the city’s website.