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Community plans downtown Manhattan Beach

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Community Development Director Marisa Lundstedt answers a question at a workshop on the future of downtown. Photo by Caroline Anderson

Community Development Director Marisa Lundstedt answers a question at a workshop on the future of downtown. Photo by Caroline Anderson

The city is drawing closer to having a Specific Plan for its downtown.

Around 70 people, including residents and shop owners, packed into a workshop Monday night at the Manhattan Beach Police Department to express preferences on issues such as parking, business relations and public art.

The workshop was part of the city’s effort to control the future of downtown as its popularity has threatened to dramatically change it.

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The council hired two organizations to help create a long-term plan: the Urban Land Institute (ULI) and Pacific Municipal Consultants (PMC). In January, ULI experts spoke with community members and gave recommendations. PMC, which observed the proceedings, is holding a series of public workshops as it develops a Specific Plan.

At the second workshop on Monday night, some of ULI’s recommendations, such as removing some street parking to create areas for pedestrians and outdoor dining and expanding valet parking, were presented.

One resident questioned the need for such planning, saying he liked the downtown as it is.

Community Development Manager Marisa Lundstedt said that was why they needed a plan.  

“It’s not so much about a problem, but about managing change that we know is inevitable,” she said. “You may love the way it is, but everything changes, so we want to know what you want to retain.”

During the workshop, participants circulated among stations on parking and mobility; public spaces and walkways; public art, design preferences and wayfinding; building design and outdoor dining; and business development and relations.

At the end, the experts who staffed the stations summed up what they heard.

“Balance the needs of the businesses to meet the needs of the residents, not just visitors and tourists,” said Lani Lott, who staffed the business development station.

At the parking station, the item which received the most “yes” votes, building new parking structures, also received the most “no” votes.

“There seems to be the thought: ‘Yes, we need more parking, but we’re afraid bringing in more people and more cars is going to exacerbate the problem,’” said that station’s representative.    

Even those mixed feelings contrasted with the first workshop in October, at which the idea was dismissed entirely.

The results of Monday’s workshop will be presented at the Dec. 1 council meeting.

At the council meeting after the first workshop, the council ratified the preferences expressed by the attendees, such as a two-story cap on building height and the selection of Von’s and the Skechers office building on Manhattan Beach Boulevard as potential sites to develop.

A final workshop will be held early next year, probably in February, at which PMC will unveil a draft Specific Plan.

With the feedback from that meeting, PMC will craft a tentative final draft to present at a council hearing. ER

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