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Monster Mansions, Micro Units and Murals
By Jorge Casuso
December 25, 2019 -- In 2019, Santa Monica took a bite out of McMansions," curbed market rate "micro units," lost one of its two most famous murals and began trying to save the other.
Monster Mansions Cut to Scale
Santa Monica saw home prices continue rising higher last year, and the trend seemed to whet the speculators' appetite for over-sized McMansions ("Santa Monica Home Prices Post Highest Jump in Nation, Study Finds," November 1, 2019).
As the year kicked off, a working group begin developing new standards for "monster mansions" for the second time in two decades ("Working Group to Begin Tackling Monster Mansions in Santa Monica -- Again," January 8, 2019).
By September, the battle had escalated into what resembled a full-fledged political campaign ("Battle Over 'McMansions' Escalates in Santa Monica as New Standards Head to Council," September 12, 2019).
A mailer sent to Santa Monica homeowners in an effort to rally them before the Council considered curbing the size of their homes showed a masked burglar who resembles a terrorist breaking into a home to steal its value.
The campaign failed to sway the Council, which the following month took a bite out of the super-sized "McMansions" many residents feared were encroaching on their streets ("Council Curbs Spread of Super-Sized Homes," October 23, 2019).
The vote capped a lengthy process that pitted neighbors in single-family districts across the increasingly expensive city.
Micro Units Nipped, But Not Before They Spread
In May, the City Council unanimously voted to permanently ban market rate "micro units" in Santa Monica ("Council Permanently Bans Market-Rate 'Micro Units,' At Least For Now," May 15, 2019).
But by the end of the year, the first two developments featuring the tiny units that range from 219 to 373 square feet would be on their way to approval ("First Two Revised SRO Developments Get Hearing," December 5, 2019).
The developments were the first of six market-rate SRO projects Downtown resubmitted under a settlement agreement between the developer and City ("Market Rate SROs Get Go-ahead Under Settlement Agreement," July 1, 2019).
The units may still have a future as an "affordable" housing alternative after the Planning Commission argued they fulfilled a pressing need ("EXTRA -- Planning Commission Rejects Council's Request to Propose Ban on "Micro Units," May 2, 2019).
In May, Santa Monicans were shocked to learn their iconic mural depicting the city's laid-back beach culture was being removed ("Iconic Santa Monica Beach Mural Will Soon Be Removed," May 28, 2019).
By early August, the wall above the old bank building entrance at 26th and Wilshire that held the "Pleasures Along the Beach" mosaic for 50 years was blank ("No More 'Pleasures Along the Beach' in Santa Monica," August 8, 2019).
The mural by renown California artists Millard Sheets will be installed near a train station 45 miles away in the City of Orange ("Iconic Santa Monica Mural Finds New Home in Orange County," June 5, 2019).
The loss outraged a "distressed" Arts Commission that grilled the City's top cultural official on how Santa Monica could lose one of its most famous public artworks without the public knowing ("'Distressed'" Arts Commission Learns Why Santa Monica Lost Its Iconic Mural," June 20, 2019).
A special report in The Lookout detailing how the City decided not to accept the artwork, had prompted the inquiry ("SPECIAL REPORT -- How Santa Monica Lost Its Iconic Half-Century Old Mosaic," June 7, 2019).
Not Out of The Woods Yet
"Muir Woods," Santa Monica's other iconic outdoor mural, could be the next to go.
In October, activists succeeded in stopping the School Board from voting to erase the 40-year-old mural covering two walls of the former Olympic High School ("Santa Monica Activists Relaunch Campaign to Save 'Muir Woods' Mural," October 2, 2019).
Later that month, the Board voted to let the mural stay in place while the community helps determine its fate ("'Muir Woods' Mural Gets Reprieve from School Board," October 18, 2019).
Next month, artist Jane Golden will return to Santa Monica to help lead a process to determine whether to replace or refurbish the mural she created in 1978 ("Renown Public Artist to Help Decide Fate of Her 'Muir Woods' Mural," December 19, 2019).
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