Redesign of Manhattan pier area recommended
A “grand staircase” leads down to the pier, flanked by parking structures on either side. Vendors offer umbrellas and chairs. The bike path runs under the pier.
These are some of the suggestions outlined in the final report by the Urban Land Institute, released June 26 and available on the city’s website.
The panel, which made some recommendations at the end of the week it spent evaluating downtown in January, was supposed to have its final report ready not long after, but personnel changes delayed its release. Consequently, the report appears to have been met with little notice by the general public.
The catalyst for the analysis was the increase of financial and real estate offices and the departure of small stores downtown that people felt were changing the city’s character. The purpose of having the panel was to help the community craft a vision for the future.
The city has also commissioned Pacific Municipal Consultants, which observed the panel, to draft a plan which will map out how to achieve specific goals by, for example, changing zoning. The plan was estimated to take 14 months to complete.
The institute found that visitors supplied a large amount of business downtown. For restaurants, almost 75 percent of customers are from outside the city. Consequently, the report frames its recommendations as helping to continue to attract outsiders. It does mention an alternative, but only in a sentence.
“Downtown has too much retail space to be supported by residents alone if the objective is to preserve downtown for locals only,” the final report said. “If the objective is to preserve downtown for locals only, one strategy would be to reduce the downtown footprint. If that is not the preferred strategy, then the city must recognize the tremendous importance of visitors to the health of the downtown commercial market.”
The redevelopment of the area near the pier, which the report calls “the key focal point of the entire downtown,” was earmarked as a “priority action item.”
“Immediately engage the state to activate the beachhead area with vendors (food, umbrella, chairs),” advised the report. “Work with the state on the long-range modifications to the pier area.”
Those modifications include reworking the “interface of Manhattan Beach Boulevard with The Strand.”
“This would include consideration of a grand staircase from Ocean Drive (or strictly speaking, the new level of the surface parking) to The Strand and the relocation of the bike path under the pier,” the report said.
Another major change was adding an extra story to most buildings. The report notes that most buildings downtown are one to two stories, “with an occasional three-story building that is built into the grade of the topography.”
“The panel believes that some densification could be beneficial to the economic development goals of the city and would support higher buildings,” the report said. It suggests three to four stories, with the possibility of an occasional building that’s taller.
Other recommendations from the final report include adding residential apartments to top floors throughout the downtown area; adding retail in the ground floor of the Skechers building on Manhattan Beach Boulevard; building a 20,000-square-foot multi-use building at 13th Street and Morningside Drive; constructing underground parking at Live Oak Park; narrowing Manhattan Beach Boulevard and making the sidewalks wider on the three blocks from Morningside Drive to Manhattan Avenue; enabling outdoor dining on sidewalks; and redeveloping the Vons supermarket site to include underground parking and a mixed-use building that fronts Manhattan Beach Boulevard. ER