Public Input for Business District Project Needed
Palisades PRIDE President John Padden presented an update at the February 14 Pacific Palisades Community Council meeting about a village beautification/harmonization project that has been in the works for the past two years.
A plan was drawn up last year by MGAC (Mark G. Anderson Consultants, Inc.) and presented to a committee that included Padden, Community Council members Sue Kohl and Chris Spitz, Business Improvement District President Elliot Zorensky, Village Green Board member Marge Gold and Alphabet Street residents Sandy Eddy and Ted Weitz.
Subsequent beautification/harmonization committee meetings have been closed to the public and to the press.
At the February PPCC meeting, Padden presented an overview of the project, but without specifics other than it would involve 10 stages.
Circling the News asked how much the project would cost and Padden said $20 million. To beautify only the section of the Palisades along Sunset between Monument and Swarthmore would be “a little under $2 million,” Padden said.
At that meeting, Padden, who dubbed it a community process, was asked when the press could look at the project and he said soon. CTN suggested that the community should be allowed to see the project “sooner than later.”
Resident Lou Kamer asked, “How can you say it’s a community process when it hasn’t gone to the community?”
Padden responded, “If we had invited the entire community it would never have gotten done.”
Asked how much longer before the project goes out to the community, he said, “I don’t know.”
After reading the minutes from that meeting, Kamer sent a letter to the PPCC and said that his query was not accurately reflected. His letter is below:
To: Board Members of the PPCC and Palisades Community
From: Lou Kamer – Resident, Pacific Palisades
February 23, 2019
Like many of you, I look forward to seeing the Village Harmonization Committee plans for the business district. Our town needs a spruce-up and I very much appreciate PRIDE’s longtime dedication to beautifying our community. Even with a $20M total price tag, if it makes sense, I hope we can find a way to go it done.
I realize that PPCC minutes are summaries, but the minutes from the 2/24/19 PPCC meeting I attended did not accurately reflect my exchange.
The minutes read: “Lou Kamer questioned whether this is a community project.”
What I said was: “How can you say it is a community project when you’ve had a couple of people who have been involved in this and when the community knows absolutely nothing about this?”
John Padden’s response was “We haven’t even had a full plan on this. If I had…we had 30 or 40 people on this and open to the opinion of the entire community, we never would have gotten anywhere.”
I then asked if anyone from the public other than these groups had been invited? Same response.
I also asked if this was at all connected to the monies Caruso was to contribute in exchange for PPCC’s project approval and agreeing to vacating the alley and Paseo to Caruso Affiliated.
Chris Spitz noted that this a preliminary notice and that the group is working together very well.
Sue Kohl stated: “They are not committing any funds at this point or promised to. They have sponsored all the city planning and the people that are coming up with the plans so that has been donated by Caruso right now.”
Please consider updating the minutes to reflect a more accurate recounting of this discussion.
Still, I am unclear as to whether Caruso donated his architect and staff’s time to this project in lieu of the unspecified monies promised in the PPCC motion from March 2016.
Here’s the relevant sections of that motion below:
“[PPCC] recommends approval of the parcel map, in reliance upon the applicant’s commitment to contribute to funding of off-site harmonizing streetscape improvements in conjunction with community entities such as PRIDE, the Village Green Committee, Palisades Beautiful, and the Palisades Business Improvement District (BID). To this end, the use of the fund shall include, but not be limited to, installation of compatible off-site streetscape improvements. Possible unifying items could include street furniture, street signs, exterior lighting and lampposts, sidewalk and crosswalk treatments, and plant materials….”
I also wonder if the members of this committee really represent the entire community or what they might like to see in our town? The group has only three non-design-professional residents and has included Caruso employees, their contracted designer, non-elected members of the PPCC, the Chamber and BID. Members were told to not discuss anything with others from outside of the meetings. How then were these representatives able to reflect the desires of the public?
I also disagree with the idea that 30 or 40 people can’t get anything done. We do it all the time, from PPTFH cleanups to Holiday Events; community meetings, Fourth of July Parades, and races.
So, while I do not question plans, I haven’t seen, I do wonder about the methods and approach used to devise them.
In the past, private committees and meetings have led our town to become a split and partisan community. Some believe that recent developments and changes, though possibly profitable and useful to some, have damaged the overall character and uniqueness of PP and ruined the village. Hopefully, this committee’s plans, as well as PPCC’s future actions, will offer improvements that help to evolve the rest of the business district for everyone and not just small groups with special interests or motives. Listening, transparency and inclusion is necessary to maintain our commonality, eliminate discord and heal division.
Thank you, in advance, for providing answers to the questions above.
Sincerely, Lou Kamer