City Council Meeting: June 22, 2010

Agenda Item: 1-M

To:                   Mayor and City Council

From:              Barbara Stinchfield, Director, Community and Cultural Services

Subject:         Proposed Community Engagement Strategy for the Palisades Garden Walk/Town Square Project


Recommended Action

Staff recommends that City Council approve the proposed community engagement strategy for the design of the Palisades Garden Walk/Town Square Project and direct staff to proceed with its implementation according to the timeline set forth in this staff report.


Executive Summary

On April 13, 2010, the City Council approved the selection of James Corner Field Operations for the design of the Palisades Garden Walk/Town Square Project as defined in the Civic Center Specific Plan (CCSP).   Palisades Garden Walk, a 6-acre park to be located on the former Rand site and the 1-acre Town Square located just to the west of City Hall provide a unique opportunity to create two important site-specific community open spaces that are highly responsive to the community’s desires and vision.


A multi-pronged community engagement strategy utilizing electronic and social media, stakeholder group liaisons, multiple community workshops, educational activities for youth, joint meetings of the Recreation and Parks and Planning Commissions, and visits to other advisory groups and regulatory commissions at key intervals will precede review by the City Council. This strategy is proposed to ensure that a broad and diverse set of community voices participate in shaping the design of these key civic open spaces.



The Civic Center Specific Plan (CCSP) approved by the City Council in April 23, 2002 identified these two open spaces as key elements in revitalizing the Civic Center.  The CCSP envisions a Town Square that “serves as the focus for community gatherings and civic events and becomes the ‘democratic space’ symbolic of Santa Monica city government.  The square is conceived in the tradition of a forum, providing a space for people to gather in large groups and in small numbers to express their views and voice their opinions on matters of public interest.”


Palisades Garden Walk is envisioned “as an important gateway into the area, creating a strong linkage to Palisades Park.  It plays an important cultural role within the community, while at the same time becoming a place for informal play, picnicking, strolling, jogging, sitting and viewing….Palisades Garden Walk also adds layers of new meaning and identity to the area through elements such as integrated public art, horticultural exhibits, commemorative elements, and a creative contouring of landform.”


The CCSP also describes the creation of a series of physical linkages that will unify open spaces and serve as binding elements.  Wide sidewalks and an integrated network of pathways for bicyclists and pedestrians will enhance the visitor experience.  In order to realize the vision and policies in the CCSP, $25 million in Redevelopment Agency funding was earmarked by the City Council on April 14, 2009 for construction of Palisades Garden Walk and Town Square.  A Request for Proposals for a design team was issued in October 2009 and on April 13, 2010 the City Council awarded the contract to a team led by James Corner Field Operations (JCFO).  A key factor in the team’s selection was their commitment to engaging the public in the planning and design of public open spaces and their creative design approach. 


Since the Council’s action, City staff from the Public Works Department (Architectural Services Division) and the Department of Community and Cultural Services with input from JCFO, discussed possible community engagement approaches and activities and developed an approach that was presented to and approved by the Recreation and Parks Commission on March 20, 2010 as described below.



The following goals are proposed to guide the community engagement process.

·         To engage the broadest possible range of community members in the design process.

·         To ensure participation that reflects the diverse interests and perspectives of the community.

·         To provide a full range of interactive community engagement activities-both formal and informal.

·         To develop “feedback loops” so that participants experience the iterative design process and know they have been heard.

·         To communicate the status of project during all stages of the design process.

·         To engage City Commissions and stakeholder groups at key stages of the design process.

·         To ensure the community’s investment in the final design and ownership of the park.

·         To organize community engagement activities that conform to a set timeframe in order to be responsive to the funding deadline required for Redevelopment Agency funding.


Because of the high level of community interest in this project and the number of City Commissions and stakeholder groups to be involved, an inclusive and highly transparent interactive strategy has been proposed as illustrated in Attachment 1 of this staff report.  Community engagement components include: 

·         Community Education and Input – A project website with project background and periodic updates; online and onsite surveys including opportunities for park naming; e-blasts to announce important milestones and community engagement activities; a possible project blog; use of social media, CityTV, Seascape and press releases.

·         Stakeholder Group Liaisons – City staff visits to interested stakeholder groups, presenting opportunities for participation and inviting designation of liaisons to the project. Liaisons will serve as the communication link between the project and their groups ensuring that they are aware of and involved in community design activities.  An initial list of potential stakeholder groups that may be interested in participating is attached (Attachment 2).

·         Community Workshops – four interactive community workshops at key stages of the design process including activities to engage youth and an interactive activity that promotes community ownership of the park.  Workshops include:  

Ø  Workshop 1: an open house workshop held on the project site to orient the public to the project, meet the designers and receive initial input on the community’s vision and program for the park (July, 2010)

Ø  Workshop 2:  a  workshop to review initial community input from the July open house, with the design team presenting various concept alternatives (September 2010)

Ø  Workshop 3: a community workshop to review a proposed schematic design (November 2010)

Ø  Workshop 4:  a final community workshop to review design development plans (January 2011)

·               Joint Meetings of the Recreation and Parks and Planning Commissions –At the end of Workshops #2 (concept design) and #3 (schematic design), a joint meeting of the Commissions to discuss and formulate comments for transmittal to the City Council.

·               Regulatory Reviews – Landmarks Commission review of the Town Square concept and schematic designs; Arts Commission and Public Art Committee review of public art designs; Architectural Review Board review of design development drawings related to structures; Coastal Commission review of design development plans.

City Council review and action would occur at key benchmarks during the design process including programming and concept design, schematic design, design development, and final design and award of the construction contract.  


Commission Action

On May 20, 2010, James Corner Field Operations made a presentation to the Recreation and Parks Commission including an overview of the firm’s background and philosophy, its portfolio of sample projects with examples of community engagement activities they have spearheaded and initial observations about the Palisades Garden Walk/Town Square project.  Members of the public had an opportunity to ask the team questions about the process.  The Commission and public response to the presentation was extremely positive.  The Commission also reviewed the proposed public engagement strategy and approved a motion supporting the process as proposed by staff with the addition of the following elements which have been incorporated into the overall strategy described above.  (Attachment 3)

·   an educational outreach component specifically targeted to youth

·   an interactive activity to promote ownership of the park

·   incorporation of social media outreach activities (Facebook, Twitter, podcasts, You-tube)

·   a park naming competition



Financial Impacts & Budget Actions

No financial or budgetary impacts are associated with this action.  


Prepared by: Karen Ginsberg, Assistant Director, Community and Cultural Services





Forwarded to Council:







Barbara Stinchfield

Director, Department


Rod Gould

City Manager





1. Proposed Community Engagement Timeframe

2. Initial List of Potential Stakeholder Groups

3. Letter from the Recreation and Parks Commission


Attachment 1




Attachment  2



Palisades Garden Walk/Town Square




City Review Commissions

Architectural Review Board

Arts Commission

Landmarks Commission

Planning Commission

Recreation and Parks Commission


Advisory Boards and Commissions

Commission for a Senior Community

Commission on the Status of Women

Disabilities Commission

Housing Commission

Social Services Commission

Environmental Task Force

Urban Forest Task Force


Bayside District Corporation

Convention and Visitors Bureau

Pier Restoration Corporation


Business Organizations

Chamber of Commerce

Main Street Merchants Association


Neighborhood Associations

Friends of Sunset Park






Other Community Organizations

Opportunities to appoint a stakeholder liaison will be announced broadly to ensure that all interested groups will have an opportunity to receive an overview of the project by City staff and appoint a stakeholder liaison to the project.


Attachment 3