Santa Monica Observer - Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words



From: Gleam Davis

I believe that the project the Council approved is a superior alternative to the only other option on the table--allowing Hines to reoccupy the existing building and use 300,000 square feet of commercial space without any significant public benefits. As the City attorney made clear on Tuesday night, any significant change to the project would require months (or longer) of additional study and work. After investing years and millions of dollars in a very public process, Hines would have no obligation to engage in further study (especially if it had no reason to believe that after spending additional time and money, the project still would not be approved). As a result, it was important to either pass something on Tuesday or send Hines back for some additional work with the confidence that the additional work would likely lead to approval. With the approved project we get peak hour trip caps (with significant monetary penalties), seed money for a traffic management association that will attempt to reduce traffic from the entire area (including the existing nearby office buildings), over 400 residential units that will allow workers to live near their jobs, significant affordable housing including very affordable accessible units designed to serve seniors and those with physical disabilities, $2 million for a new park in the Pico neighborhood, a very large on-site plaza that can host a farmer’s market and other types of community gatherings, a separate 20,000 square foot green park for the neighborhood, and new streets and wide sidewalks and other pedestrian and bike enhancements that will make this part of Santa Monica extremely walkable. This project also will be the foundation for realizing the Bergamot Area Plan of creating a complete neighborhood in this formerly industrial area. I know that many people now are suggesting that the project should have been 100% residential. Unfortunately, when we considered the Land Use and Circulation Element (LUCE) and the Bergamot Area Plan, none of the folks now calling for 100% residential came to Planning Commission or Council and asked for that. In fact, when the City Council considered the issue of mix of uses, the debate was between 50%-50% and 60%-40% (commercial to housing). Although the Council adopted the 60%-40% configuration for this area, at the hearing on Tuesday I tried to reach a compromise with those who had concerns about the size and use mix by proposing that the Council direct the developer to reduce the commercial component by 42,000 square feet. This would have pushed the use mix back to 50% commercial and 50% residential. I think if there had been five votes for this compromise, the developer would have had sufficient comfort that the project would be approved in the new configuration and would have been willing to make that change even though it required a few weeks of additional work. However, as there did not appear to be a fifth vote for the idea, I became concerned that the developer would be unwilling to take the risk of doing the additional work and waiting the additional time and then, having done the work, still lose at Council. So I withdrew that portion of my motion. I appreciate that traffic is a huge concern for many. However, the traffic studies done in connection with this project showed that allowing Hines to reoccupy the building would create MORE traffic than the commercial component of the approved project.

Gleam Davis

Santa Monica Councilmember


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