Tongva Park and the future Santa Monica

Tongva from street

I have seen the future of the oceanfront in Santa Monica and it is walkable, drought-tolerant and sustainable!

Tongva Park, which opened last September, is part of the overhaul of the city’s Civic Center area, adjacent to RAND Corporation between Ocean Avenue and Main Street. In fact, the property was owned by RAND, which relocated just south about 10 years ago. Sandwiched between the park and RAND is the Village at Santa Monica, a mixed-use, mixed-income development still under construction that will have hundreds of condominiums and rental apartments, as well as retail space.

The main path through Tongva Park, with the Weather Field art installment
The main path through Tongva Park, with the Weather Field art installment

So why would a blog about the West, the outdoors and the environment care about this new park?

  • Because it’s an extremely pleasant outdoors spot, and something that’ll make one of the most pleasant West Coast cities even more liveable.
  • And it’s only a block from what will be the terminus of Metro’s Expo Line light rail from downtown L.A., which is on track, ahem, to arrive in 2016 (keep your fingers crossed). Hoping beyond hope that this will alleviate somewhat the traffic nightmare that is endemic on the Westside.
  • Also, I love parks that blend seamlessly into urban surroundings (think Millenium Park in Chicago and the High Line in NYC). In fact, Tongva Park was designed by James Corner, who also created the much-loved High Line.
  • Plus, I’m a total Santa Monica geek who actually listens to City Council meetings on Tuesday nights.
  • And, of course, #itsmyblogandicanwriteaboutwhateveriwant.

I’ve been keeping an eye on the space — which used to be a parking lot — since I used to live in that area and worked on an infographic on the plan. I just couldn’t picture a park there. I got used to seeing construction and giant trees in pots waiting to be planted. My eyes popped when I saw the finished park a couple months ago. What a stunner.

Tongva’s seven acres are laced with walkways through hillsides studded with a palette of native, drought-tolerant plants. Garden-lovers will geek out at the online planting plans. The highlight of Observation Hill at the top of the park is two steel Slinky-shaped observation decks overlooking the ocean.

Tongva Park's Observation Hill is dotted with plants adapted to the seaside location.
Tongva Park’s Observation Hill is dotted with plants adapted to the seaside location.
Observation deck at Tongva Park, on a marine-layer day.
Observation deck at Tongva Park, on a marine-layer day.

Here’s a view of the observation decks from Ocean Avenue:

View from Ocean Avenue of Tongva Park's observation decks.
View from Ocean Avenue of Tongva Park’s observation decks.

The park’s benches have nifty tables built into them:

Tongva bench

A wall near the restrooms is filling in with vines in a lattice pattern:

Tongva wall

Water feature near the Main Street entrance, across from Santa Monica’s City Hall:

Tongva water

Locals may wonder what will become of the iconic Chez Jay, next to the park. The tiny, historic eatery is still there and in fact was designated a local landmark by the city, so hopefully it’ll persevere. There are plans for a walkup window, but I’m not sure where they stand at this point.

Chez Jay

Here’s a short video of Weather Field No. 1, 49 stainless steel poles with anemometers and wind vane:

A median down Ocean Avenue in front of the new “village” was recently planted:

Ocean Ave. median

Tongva Park makes a nice side trip if you’re on the bike path, or if you’re hanging out on Main Street or the Third Street Promenade. There’s also a playground with a climbing wall for the kiddies.

The park really connects this part of downtown Santa Monica to the oceanfront district. Another project that promises to be an attractive addition is the Colorado Esplanade, a pedestrian-friendly promenade that will connect the Expo station at 4th and Colorado to Ocean Avenue,  Santa Monica Pier, and Tongva Park. There’s a nifty interactive timeline on the city’s website that details all these projects, for all you fellow eco-geeks out there.

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