Great Places in California Winners


Congratulations 2017 Great Places Winners!

The California Chapter of the American Planning Association is pleased to recognize the three Great Places in California award winners for 2017. A Great Place in California is one that exemplifies character, quality, and excellent planning. A Great Place may be found anywhere from a large city to a small rural community. It may encompass a vibrant downtown, a suburban gathering place, a historic small town, a public park, or a preserved open space. But most importantly, it must be a place where people want to be.

Downtown Santa Monica

Downtown Santa Monica has emerged as a great place through a combination of its natural surroundings, an enviable climate, and purposeful planning that has enhanced those natural assets by fostering a built environment that focuses on what human beings want communal places to offer, which includes activity, social contact, comfort, diversity, and entertainment. Downtown Santa Monica thrives as a great place because City planners recognized more than 50 years ago that lively pedestrian activity was the secret to creating and maintaining a thriving shopping district. The Downtown Santa Monica area can be characterized as open and accessible, yet it provides intimate, comfortable spaces; has an active and bustling pedestrian environment, connecting tranquil beaches and parks. It thrives with international visitors year-round, yet still serves as a primary community meeting place for residents of the City of Santa Monica.

Old Towne Plaza, OraNge

The Plaza in Old Towne Orange epitomizes why the City of Orange is often described as a mid-sized city that feels like a small town. First laid out in 1880, The Plaza is the social and cultural heart of the City of Orange. The Plaza is not only its own National Register District, but it is also located at the center of the Old Towne Orange National Register Historic District. The Plaza is a true town square that marks the intersection of two of Orange’s oldest arterials, Chapman Avenue and Glassell Street. The Plaza includes historic turn-of-the-century commercial buildings that surround an elliptical park and traffic roundabout. The park contains a fountain dating from 1937, walkways, and a number of mature trees, some of which were planted in the late 1800s. It is one of the oldest and most intact historic districts in Southern California, with the Plaza, park, and roundabout being unique to the region. Historic residential quadrants surround The Plaza, representing the one square mile original settlement area of the City. These neighborhoods are an easy stroll from The Plaza, and contribute to the role that it plays as the community’s “living room.” The downtown commercial core that emanates from the Plaza is a vibrant commercial district with numerous antique shops, restaurants and mom-and-pop shops.

City of Lafayette

Lafayette was incorporated in 1968, primarily due to the community’s residents who were unhappy with County policies promoting urban sprawl. The City’s first General Plan poetically describes the community as a “City extending from park to park and laced with an inner pattern of open spaces.” Lafayette is now characterized as having extraordinary open spaces that preserve the natural environment. Protection of these open spaces is achieved by concentrating growth in its downtown core and enforcing its rigorous hillside development requirements. The City contains more than 90 acres of public parklands, ranging from undisturbed wilderness to sports fields, playgrounds, and downtown plazas. Lafayette’s land use pattern reflects the City’s deep seated commitment to preserving open space while promoting compact transit-oriented growth. Lafayette continues to live by the tenets set forth in its first General Plan penned over 40 years ago. This long term, constant, and consistent focus on core smart growth principles is, to a large extent, responsible for the Lafayette we experience today.