The Santa Monica City Council has advanced the latest design for the Palisades Garden Walk project, but it is seeking further revisions to the plan for Town Square.
The City Council voted unanimously June 14 to approve the recommended design direction and move forward with construction documents for the proposed six-acre Garden Walk park west of Main Street. But with less favorable opinions on the design for the 1-acre Town Square in front of City Hall, the council additionally directed staff to return with a revised design.
The Garden Walk and Town Square projects are identified as part of the Civic Center Specific Plan and a design contract has been awarded to James Corner Field Operations.
According to the plan, the Palisades Garden Walk is envisioned to interpret Southern California landscapes and is meant to be a place for informal play, strolling, sitting and viewing. The Town Square is intended to have the atmosphere of a forum with a space for people to gather, as well as create an “attractive terminus” to Main Street, according to the plan.
Corner has held several community meetings on the design process for the projects and has proposed the “Arroyo Wash” concept for the Garden Walk design, which has received wide public support. The design features hills, bays, plantings, overlooks, water features, and lighting.
Corner said the public expressed the importance of views and topography in the park, and as a result of meetings, the plan incorporated changes such as a more refined design of the overlook and play structures. He said the design allows for visitors to get raised views of the area and offers a strong network of pathways.
“This is more than a park; it really becomes a garden in the sense of something that is extraordinarily dynamic, colorful and beautiful, and that will arouse people’s interests and perhaps even have an educational significance,” he told the council.
The Town Square design has had a number of revisions, with the newest scheme featuring the memorial rose garden enclosed within a water feature and the water element flowing through the park, he said. Residents have indicated that they want the Town Square to feel like it’s part of the Garden Walk, Corner noted.
Residents were quick to praise the design concept for the Palisades project, but some, including members of the city Recreation and Parks Commission, leaned the other way in regards to Town Square.
“I’m in love with the design for Palisades Garden Walk,” said Phil Brock of the Recreation and Parks Commission. “I believe citizens will receive such an enhancement and this park will be used by generationsŠ but I remain concerned that the Town Square has been diluted.”
He encouraged the city to give Corner more freedom to do a better design of the square to make it a true gathering place that can help unify Main Street with downtown.
Commissioner Richard McKinnon said the Garden Walk site seems to have the element of “magic,” while the City Hall side has a design that has lost trees and the “power of imagination that has brought us all to the point of support.”
In response to the public comments, Corner described the design to the council as good and relatively flexible, but he acknowledged that it is not fresh and well-linked to the park on the other side and welcomed some of their guidance.
While Mayor Pro Tem Gleam Davis said she did not have any complaints about the Garden Walk, she was less enthusiastic about the Town Square in its current iteration.
“In my mind it has no relationship to Palisades Garden Walk and that really troubles me,” she said. “It’s not inviting to me; it feels very sterile.
“I want to create something that honors not just the architecture of the (City Hall) building, but the meaning of the building.”