City Council and Redevelopment Agency Report


City Council Meeting: April 13, 2010

Agenda Item: 8-B

To:                   Mayor and City Council

                        Chairperson and Redevelopment Agency Members

From:              Lee E. Swain, Director of Public Works

Subject:         Design Contract for Palisades Garden Walk & Town Square


Recommended Action

Staff recommends that:


1)    The City Council authorize the City Manager to negotiate and execute a contract with James Corner Field Operations for the design and construction bid document preparation of the Palisades Garden Walk & Town Square project for an amount not to exceed $3,200,000 including a 10% contingency; and

2)    The City Council and Redevelopment Agency authorize the City Manager and Executive Director to execute a Reimbursement Agreement between the City and the Redevelopment Agency for costs associated with the scope of work described above.


Executive Summary

On June 9, 2009, the City Council approved long-term redevelopment funding priorities that included a funding allocation of $25,000,000 to support the design and construction of Palisades Garden Walk & Town Square.  Following a competitive request for qualifications and interview process that included an outside panel of design and planning professionals and City staff, the Palisades Garden Walk & Town Square Selection Panel recommends James Corner Field Operations to undertake the landscape architectural design services for seven-acres of public open space at the Civic Center site, at a cost of $3,200,000.



On June 28, 2005, the City Council adopted an update to the 1993 Civic Center Specific Plan (CCSP), setting forth planning policies and land use and development regulations for a 67-acre area bounded by Pico Boulevard on the south, Fourth Street on the east, Ocean Avenue on the west, and Colorado Avenue on the north.


An important element of the CCSP is the creation of new parks and open space. This includes creating Palisades Garden Walk, a new six-acre park north of Olympic Drive, west of Main Street, south of the Interstate-10 Freeway, and east of Ocean Avenue, with an additional one-acre Town Square in front of City Hall that is oriented to civic and community activities.  Additionally, improvements to the surrounding streetscapes and freeway capping are an integral part of the CCSP.  During the CCSP community input process, participants articulated their vision for Palisades Garden Walk, seeing this project as possibly the last opportunity to create a new public open space in Santa Monica that rivaled other renowned gathering places nationally and internationally.


On June 9, 2009, the City Council approved a list of Redevelopment Agency funding priorities that included $25 million specifically for design and construction of Palisades Garden Walk & Town Square and their surrounding streetscapes.  In addition, $2 million for capping the I-10 Freeway at the adjacent McClure Tunnel was approved.  Subsequently, on June 23, 2009, the City Council adopted the FY2009-10 Budget including these capital improvement projects.


In order to attract top design professionals from across the country and abroad, staff proposed that the City assemble a Selection Panel of outside experts in design and planning and City staff to review and recommend design consultants.  On September 21, 2009, staff presented an Information Item to the City Council that summarized the selection methodology and process which included in-depth interviews of short-listed candidates followed by a recommendation of a design consultant to the City Council.



On October 12, 2009, a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) was issued, emphasizing the unique qualities of the project.  It was widely-distributed, publicized in professional design journals, and posted on the City’s website and other broadly read websites.  The RFQ included the names and titles of the outside expert members of the panel (Qingyun Ma, Architect and Dean of the USC School of Architecture; Ken Smith, Landscape Architect; and Marc Fisher, Vice Chancellor and Campus Architect of UC Santa Barbara) in order to communicate that the City had included peer professionals in their fields and sought an innovative and accomplished team of design consultants.  Six weeks were provided for design teams to respond to the RFQ in order to provide time for wide distribution and media attention.  The RFQ sought to promote submissions by design teams of the highest caliber by clearly articulating the unique aspects of the design opportunity and highlighting the rare chance to develop open space that also serves as an urban connector and heart of Santa Monica’s Civic Center.  Responses to the RFQ were reviewed by the Selection Panel of professionals and City staff, which developed a short list of the most qualified applicants.  Evaluation of the submitted materials was based on the following selection criteria, which were clearly stated in the distributed RFQ:


·         Ability of the team to deliver a project of the highest caliber design.

·         Experience in successfully designing and delivering similar projects in terms of context, size, scale, budget and program.

·         Critical acclaim, awards, exhibition, and publication of projects planned, engineered, designed and managed by team members.

·         Demonstrated ability to innovatively engage communities for effective outcomes.

·         Demonstrated commitment to sustainability and green building standards.

·         Demonstrated ability to work successfully with artists in the public realm.

·         Ability of the team to successfully complete the full scope of work on time and within budget.

·         Evidence of a productive team dynamic.

·         Understanding of the project goals and approach and the importance of the project to the community.

·         A design philosophy, approach and working style that is consistent with Santa Monica’s commitment to creating unique and community-responsive public places.

·         References from past clients for short-listed firms only.


Consultant Selection

A total of 24 teams responded to the RFQ.  They represented a wide range of design collaborations for the Selection Panel to consider based on the criteria listed above.  The Selection Panel short-listed six teams that represented six distinct design and collaborative team possibilities, including Landscape Architect-led teams, Architect-led teams, and Landscape Architect/Architect/Artist partnerships.


Interviews with the six short-listed teams commenced on January 14, 2010, and concluded on February 2, 2010.  Each team was given two hours to present their team’s approach to the project, show their commitment to designing unique public places, provide outstanding examples of relevant past work, discuss their approach to community engagement, and outline the team’s organizational structure.  A question and answer session and dialogue between the Panel and teams followed.  The degree of innovation, team strength and cohesiveness, general approach to design, and comprehension of the unique challenges and opportunities presented by the site were evaluated.


Following the interviews, the Selection Panel unanimously recommended James Corner Field Operations to be the Palisades Garden Walk & Town Square design consultant.  On February 18, 2010, an Information Item was presented to the City Council on the Selection Panel’s recommendation of James Corner Field Operations.


James Corner Field Operations represents a strong Landscape Architect-led cohesive team with experience in innovative public engagement processes, a high level of experience in civic design, and a sensitive and insightful analysis of the site and the unique opportunities it presents.  They have recently completed the High Line project in New York City.  The project hovers above the City streets on 1.45 miles of abandoned elevated train tracks.  This unusual urban park snakes through lower Manhattan, offering the public a tranquil promenade experience within the dense urban framework of the city.  Other current projects by James Corner Field Operations include:


·         The Great Falls Park in Patterson, New Jersey – a 40-acre destination park along the Passaic River, offering visitors a sequence of outdoor “rooms” along a “loop path” that joins together a number of different landscaped experiences.

·         The Fresh Kills Park in Staten Island, New York – a 2,200-acre ecological restoration project that will include wetlands, trails, bike paths, woodland habitats, a regional sports complex, active recreational spaces, and markets.


Cited by the Selection Panel as being a “great, energetic team” that emphasized “deliverability” and the desire to “make people part of the park,” James Corner Field Operations offers an understanding of the connectivity of the park to its surroundings, its major circulation elements, and local horticultural imperatives, along with a focus on designing a signature civic park.


Based on James Corner Field Operations’ broad experience in working with diverse communities using innovative and responsive engagement activities, the quality of their built projects, and the firm’s high level of innovation, the Selection Panel recommends James Corner Field Operations for the design of the Palisades Garden Walk & Town Square project at a cost of $3,200,000.


Next Steps

Following execution of the contract with James Corner Field Operations, the design consultant and City staff will initiate an extensive community engagement process for the new parks.  The process includes a range of innovative activities for community involvement as well as periodic review by advisory and regulatory Commissions and by the City Council.  A critical consideration as the park design moves forward is the appropriate level of funding necessary to ensure that the park provides the amenities and infrastructure expected by the community and City Council.  As the park is envisioned to become a unique, world-class open space that is to be enjoyed by all of Santa Monica, the amount of funding that is currently allocated may be insufficient to fulfill community expectations.  As the design process proceeds, City staff will work with the design consultant and its cost estimator to evaluate concept alternatives, continue to pursue grant funding, and if justified, return to Council with recommendations for possible reallocation of redevelopment funding priorities.  In this regard, one consideration may be the funding allocation to this project relative to the expectedly less-complex Civic Auditorium Park.



Redevelopment Considerations

The Agency’s funding for this project is consistent with the Agency’s Five-Year Implementation Plan and the Earthquake Recovery Redevelopment Project Area Plan. The Agency’s $3,200,000 contribution will be made through an advance of City funds to be reimbursed by the Redevelopment Agency through available tax increment revenues.  The Reimbursement Agreement will formalize the loan between the City and the Agency for the Palisades Garden Walk & Town Square, and provide for the Agency’s funding of those costs.


Financial Impacts & Budget Actions

The contract to be awarded to James Corner Field Operations is $3,200,000.  Funds are included in the FY2009-10 budget at account C172071.589000, Palisades Garden Walk & Town Square.


Prepared by:  Jean Bellman, Architect




Forwarded to Council:







Lee E. Swain

Director of Public Works


Rod Gould

City Manager