City Council Meeting: October 2, 2012
Agenda Item: 8-A
To: Mayor and City Council
From: Karen Ginsberg, Director, Community and
Dean Kubani, Director, Office of Sustainability and the Environment
Subject: Naming of the Two New Santa Monica Civic
Center Parks and
Botanical Garden Designation
Staff recommends that the City Council:
1. Review recommendations from the public, City staff and relevant Commissions.
2. Select names for the new Civic Center parks currently known as Palisades Garden Walk and Town Square.
3. Designate the park currently known as Palisades Garden Walk as a Botanical Garden.
The Civic Center parks currently known as Palisades Garden Walk and Town Square are now under construction and in need of permanent names. During the design process, the community suggested and voted on possible names for both parks, which helped narrow the list of possibilities but led to no clear recommendation. As called for in the City Council’s policy for naming City-owned land, buildings and facilities, the Recreation and Parks Commission and the Landmarks Commission were asked to take public testimony and make recommendations. Both Commissions found consensus around the name “Ken Genser Square” for the Town Square site and “Santa Monica Commons” for the Palisades Garden Walk site with the additional recommendation that the area of Palisades Garden Walk currently known as “Observation Hill” be renamed “Tongva Hill” and that an appropriate area of the park be identified in honor of the Belmar Triangle Neighborhood. This report details each phase of the naming process and provides a summary of historic information that may inform the Council’s decision making.
On December 13, 2011, the City Council approved an exemption to the City’s Green Building Ordinance Subpart B landscape and irrigation regulations for “registered local, state or federal historical sites and plant collections as part of botanical gardens.” As a designated local landmark, the exterior of City Hall, also known as Town Square, is exempt. Palisades Garden Walk meets the definition of a botanical garden as its design emphasizes native, locally adapted and extraordinary plantings. The need for exemption for Palisades Garden Walk from the City’s water system regulations is explained in detail below.
The City Council adopted a policy for naming City-owned land, buildings and facilities on July 9, 2002 which established formal guidelines and a procedure for considering appropriate names (see Attachment A for summary of guidelines). As specified in this policy naming suggestions “may be submitted by the public, City staff and related advisory bodies.”
Public Input during Community Workshops and On-Line Surveys
On April 13, 2010, Council awarded a design contract to James Corner Field Operations (JCFO) for the design of Palisades Garden Walk. The JCFO team worked with staff to organize a series of well-attended community workshops. On November 13, 2010, approximately 130 community members attended the third community workshop. The Schematic Design of a revised “The Arroyo Wash” was reviewed and a survey was distributed and posted on-line for one month. Question number 4 on the survey solicited ideas for park names which in turn produced a long list of potential names (see Attachment B). There was not much consensus when it came to names. Many felt that “Palisades” should be reserved for Palisades Park. The words “Arroyo”, “Ocean” and “Gardens” were often used and there were a number of suggestions for naming the park after Arcadia Bandini Sterns deBaker, the great benefactress of Santa Monica (see Attachment D).
The fourth community workshop was held on February 26, 2011, and 80 people attended. Following a presentation of design development renderings and plans, participants joined break-out groups. Each breakout group was asked to consider the list of suggested park names gathered to date and either pick a recommendation from the list or suggest a different name as a group. Most groups failed to agree on a recommended name. The few groups who reported recommendations had differing suggestions. One group favored “Moomat Ahiiko”, another favored names that included “Santa Monica” or “Central” but not “Arroyo” or “Walk”. Another group recommended “Civic Square” and “The Arroyo”, another liked “Central Park” and “Community Square” and “Arroyo Park” or “Palisades Garden Walk.” One group worried that using “Arcadia” in the name might be lead to confusion with the City of Arcadia.
At the end of the fourth community workshop survey forms were again distributed. The survey was posted on-line and remained open for one month. One hundred twenty one surveys were completed, 91 community members selected up to three top names from a long list of suggestions (see Attachment C). In racked order, top votes went to “Civic Ocean Park,” “Arcadia Park,” “Palisades Garden Walk,” “Santa Monica Garden Park,” “Arroyo Park,” “Arroyo Gardens,” “Ocean Garden Walk,” and “Santa Monica Central Park.”
The project team of City staff from Community and Cultural Services, Public Works, and Planning and Community Development along with designers from JCFO, discussed naming options and after careful consideration agreed to recommend to the City Council the name “Santa Monica Arroyo Park” for the following reasons. The project team felt that “Santa Monica” establishes the location; “Arroyo” reinforces the basis for the design and final form of the space and “Park” speaks to the multiple uses of the space, as opposed to the terms “Garden” or “Walk” which suggest a purely passive use. The project team did not develop recommendations for the Town Square site, but discussed the possibility of naming “Gathering Hill” in honor of Ken Genser, or that the Ficus grove in “Garden Hill” area be named “Genser Grove.”
Input from Related Commissions
On July 21, 2011 and January 19, 2012, the Recreation and Parks Commission took public testimony, reviewed public input to date, and considered the project team recommendations. The Commission unanimously recommended to the City Council that the area in front of City Hall currently known as Town Square be named “Ken Genser Square.” The Commission also unanimously recommended to the City Council that the area currently known as Palisades Garden Walk be named “Santa Monica Commons” and further recommended that in recognition of the historical significance of the land and history of the community, that the area currently known as “Observation Hill” be renamed “Tongva Hill” and that an appropriate area of the park be identified in honor of the Belmar Triangle Neighborhood (Attachments E and F). Subsequent to their action, the Commission learned that the affordable housing component of The Village will be called the Belmar Apartments.
The Landmarks Commission during its meeting on March 12, 2012, took public testimony, reviewed public input to date, and voted to support the recommendations made by the Recreation and Parks Commission.
Botanical Garden Designation
As described by JCFO, the park currently known as Palisades Garden Walk features, “native and locally adapted plants that work with hill topography for maximum display,” with “dramatic seasonal changes” and “bold and unique forms and shapes, showcasing extraordinary plants.” Due to the planned use of high sodium SMURRF water in the garden, the installation of a subsurface drip irrigation system that would meet the City’s irrigation ordinance requirements was not recommended by JCFO due to the strong possibility that drip irrigation would result in excessive salt accumulation in the soil and would damage the plants. JCFO and the City’s Public Landscape Division in consultation with the Office of Sustainability and the Environment recommended an alternative irrigation system that does not conform to the City’s landscape, irrigation and water system ordinance.
The ordinance however includes a specific exemption for registered local, state or federal historical sites and plant collections as part of botanical gardens and arboretums open to the public. Staff believes that there is ample justification for Palisades Garden Walk to be designated a botanical garden because it meets generally accepted criteria for botanical gardens: it is open to the public, its gardens function as an aesthetic and educational display; the garden is tended by professional staff; and garden visitors can identify plants through on-line or printed guides. Therefore it is recommended that the Council formally designate the Park as a botanical garden. Although the alternative irrigation system does not conform to the City’s ordinance requirements, proper operation and maintenance of this alternative irrigation system will ensure that water use at the park will not exceed levels that would be met by a sub-surface drip irrigation system that complies with the ordinance.
Attachment A: Summary of Naming Guidelines
Attachment B: Third Community Workshop Survey
Attachment C: Fourth Community Workshop Survey
Attachment D: About Arcadia Bandini Stearns de Baker
Attachment E: About the Tongva People
Attachment F: About the Belmar Triangle