Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words

The Plaza at Santa Monica Project Would Positively Transform Our Downtown Area

It will serve as a revenue stream for the City and generate hundreds of new jobs downtown.

Earlier this year back in a time when we were able to touch each other, then-City Attorney (now city manager) Lane Dilg put a halt to The Plaza at Santa Monica, a mixed-use development proposed for a City-owned property at the corner of Arizona Avenue and Fourth Street that will positively transform the Downtown. Dilg said in February that the project, favored by people wanting to see a city progress for the better and opposed by those who reject change, possibly violated a recently expanded California law called the Surplus Land Act that is related to how City properties can be used.

Lost in the mix of shocking stories about severe budget cuts at City Hall was the news in late March that Dilg had determined the project would not violate the law. Negotiations between the developer and the City could continue, although communication is tough these days. Nevertheless, sources say the project will go before the City Council for review (no final votes) next month.

The proposal calls for the removal of the unsightly bank buildings and their surface parking lot that have been the main features of this 2.5-acre site for many years. Among the features that will replace them with a more than 300,000-square-foot mixed-use building is an up-to 240-unit hotel and a mix of open space, retail and restaurants, cultural space, over 100,000 square feet of creative workspace, a 1,700-square-foot bike center with 3,500 square feet of space for bicycle storage, and nearly 6,000 square feet of space for a service area and equipment rooms.

The project's Draft Environmental Impact Report says, "An additional 39,100 square feet of unenclosed elevated exterior decks will be available for the visiting public, hotel guests, and tenants of the each level, large exterior terraces are created to provide outdoor space to each area of the building."

Other noteworthy features include highly efficient HVAC systems that meet or exceed code requirements and LED lighting. But one of the big public services is the inclusion of 48 units of affordable housing. They may be at the site or located elsewhere. If they are elsewhere, it could mean more affordable units.

"The Plaza at Santa Monica will serve as a revenue stream for the city and generate hundreds of new jobs downtown," the project's website says. "This new and exciting hub of life aims to connect our community and give us all many reasons to visit - to work, dine, garden, shop, enjoy the arts, take in the views, or simply relax over a picnic."

How fast this possible game changer project can get going is unknown. With the City soon to be significantly short-staffed, both sides of the local development debate have taken advantage. Some say development is the key to reviving the economy, while others say focus should be spent elsewhere.

The progressive activist group Santa Monica Forward wrote in an April 22 letter to the City Council that the City should accelerate the approval process for "projects with high-revenue potential."

"Taken together, the three large site projects in the Downtown, joined recently by the proposed redevelopment on Lincoln between Broadway and Colorado, have been shaped by years of community input," the Forward wrote in reference to The Plaza and other proposed developments.

"They not only would provide millions of dollars in annual [transient-occupancy tax], sales/use tax, and property tax revenue, but also would offer thousands of well-compensated jobs at all levels, as well as affordable housing. It's time to process these projects now so that, if approved, they can open for business as the economy recovers."


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