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



From: Kevin McKeown

Good public policy demands the ability to be decisive when appropriate, but also to learn from new information. The LUCE approximation on commercial versus residential square footage certainly deserved to be reconsidered in light of the volumes of new information provided by the Hines project Environmental Impact Report. With the adoption of the LUCE, we promised our community ³no net new PM trips.² The Hines EIR showed that their project as proposed generated 7000 new car trips, and would make mobility worse not only in the short term but as far out as 2030.

Further, since the LUCE was adopted, the state has cut off our redevelopment revenue, which for many years had been our primary tool for creating affordable housing. The Hines project provided too little housing, and too little of it at truly affordable prices. The amendment made Tuesday night nibbled gently around the edges. It was a love bite to the developer, not a substantive improvement that genuinely addressed our housing needs.

Where, I¹d also ask, is the 25% minimum open space our Bergamot Area Plan calls for? Even if one counts the narrow corridors among the tightly packed buildings, and counts the traffic-bearing streets as open space, the Chair of the Planning Commission pointed out that the Hines project fell significantly short of what¹s required. If one excludes the streets, Jennifer Kennedy advised the City Council, the open space drops to 11%, less than half of the target. Is that being ³flexible² with standards, or is it bending over backwards for the developer?

Some have wondered aloud why the project had not been better negotiated early in the process. I watched the Planning Commission try for improvements, but it was clear the developer was unwilling to yield anything not demanded by the City Council, the ultimate decision-making body on a Development Agreement.

What is the outcome, besides a project I believe our community simply will not accept and will overturn via referendum? We had the opportunity to decide what was the appropriate, future-conscious Transit-Oriented-Development in a crucial vehicular traffic corridor in an existing city, where this site sits astride an important route into and out of town for residents. The Council majority abandoned ³appropriate,² claiming fear that the developer would walk away from the deal. That hasn¹t happened in decades in Santa Monica, and this Hines decision tells other developers that ³my way or the highway² threats will work with this Council majority.




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