I am afraid for our city.
I am afraid that we will tip over into an inhospitable, overcrowded, uncomfortable social structure that alienates local residents and tourists. I’m saying this because last week I was driving down 4th Street and looking over to the entrance to Santa Monica Place and there was a neon yellow “barbed wire looking” creeping thing spread out to block the entrance. It looks like something from the Green Zone in Baghdad or the shopping malls I’ve seen in South Africa that are fenced off. I literally felt sick at the sight.
If we have become a city so dangerous that the shopping malls protect themselves with physical obstacles intended to scare people, I don’t see how the Convention and Visitors Bureau can counter that message. It stinks of the Third World, of dictatorships, of oppression.
For a city that is supposed to be an open and welcoming tourist mecca, I find this picture frightening. We have “ambassadors” on the promenade and no security officers to soften their image and their impact. Our reputation is a friendly beach community with local restaurants like Bruno’s and Chez Jay where your name is known.
But all of that is negated by the image of a scary slinky.
We were a small town with a complex of one-story apartment blocks that created community and friendships. We become a monolithic facade of 3-, 4- and 5-story apartment complexes with no real character, design or imagination. It seems that every week I notice another building being demolished to be replaced by a box-shaped complex with all the creativity of a Soviet architect.
The demolition of the bowling alley on Pico and 4th has begun. More boring five-story apartments are to be built there. The environmental impact is of little concern to developers, the lack of design beyond maximizing habitable space is another example of the unintended consequences of legislators writing bad code. This latest version finally has to be reviewed, but I expect it will be just as big, just as boring, and just as ugly as the previous submission. I read that it complies with current design codes and that means it is essentially an automatic approval thanks to current state and local regulations for development.
A short walk from Interstate 10 up Lincoln Blvd. to Colorado and you will see what our city is currently going to be for the next 20 years. It’s a shadow canyon created by boring, unimaginative buildings that are an example of mixed uses of computer design. In all honesty, I don’t know what the future of architecture is as the developers surrendered to computer-aided design. Why do we need architects at all? Can’t we just have an artificial intelligence like Watson design a building, drop the plumbing, and have the painting team use three basic colors against a plain white background and call it a day? Why bother with an Architectural Review Board?
I long for the days when Ken Genser was on the council and he held up an approval only to be contrary because he didn’t like the idea of unanimous elections. I wish we had some advice that compels developers to be creative and ingenious. It’s sad to me that we’re going to become the future of Logan’s Run, which was fiction and is fast becoming a reality.
Our city has a lot to offer in terms of culture, lifestyle and quality of life, but the vibe of a city also includes architecture and population. As affordable housing is replaced by these new modern buildings that charge high market prices, we are losing our artists, musicians and creatives. I suppose that’s in the nature of the city’s development and maturation – but I don’t have to like that. I know some homes are shown as low income, but to be honest, that’s a drop in the bucket and the higher rents are affecting the market and driving up all other unit prices.
I’m not sure what to do with all of this. But I know it would be a good place to start with the no longer intimidating entry barriers and an instruction from the city council that architecture must have artistic value beyond three spots of a primary color.
David Pisarra is a Los Angeles divorce and custody attorney specializing in father and men’s rights with the Santa Monica law firm Pisarra & Grist. He looks forward to your questions and comments. He can be reached at [email protected] or 310 / 664-9969. You can follow him on Twitter @davidpisarra