CITY HALL — There’s a new contender emerging in the small pool of possible maintenance yard locations for the Exposition Light Rail.
That candidate is a roughly 13-acre chunk of land made up of two city blocks bounded by Colorado Avenue to the north, Olympic Boulevard to the south, Ninth Street to the west, and 11th Street to the east, all of which is currently home to approximately 27 businesses, including Jerry Bruckheimer Films.
It was included in a list of 20 properties recently evaluated by a city consultant who combed through potential sites for a work facility after Pico Neighborhood residents came out in strong opposition to a proposal by the Exposition Construction Authority to place the yard at the Verizon site, which is across the street from homes near the corner of Stewart Street and Exposition Boulevard.
While the survey concluded that the Colorado option would create safety concerns because its configuration would force trains to make a turn into eastbound traffic, the City Council on Tuesday asked its staff and Expo officials to continue studying it for different siting possibilities.
“The cost of relocating businesses to me is infinitesimal compared to the mitigated impact on residents,” Councilwoman Gleam Davis said. “Relocating businesses to me may be very expensive, but it’s not going to have a negative impact on a neighborhood.”
The council also directed its staff to continue working on a newly conceived hybrid plan that would involve using the Verizon site, adjacent Santa Monica College parking lot and part of the City Yards, separating the facility and the residents with a 120-foot linear buffer.
Behind the buffer will be a car wash, storage tracks, train washing facility, and traction power station. The new plan would require relocating the bike path from the Expo right-of-way.
The hybrid option replaces an alternative proposal that city staff presented last month to spread the facility over several properties, including Verizon, the SMC parking lot and city-owned property at 1800 Stewart St. The plan was opposed by residents, Bergamot Station and the Lionstone Group, which owns the lease at 1800 Stewart.
Both the Lionstone Group and Bergamot Station, which is home to art studios and galleries, backed the new proposal, but the hybrid plan brought out a new opponent — the owners of the Lantana Entertainment Media Campus, which sits immediately to the north.
“We have grown in Santa Monica because tenants can work in an environment that is conducive to their business,” Maggi Kelley, the general manager of Lantana, said. “It is important to us that we are able to continue the same quality of service to all tenants as we have been supplying to them the last 20 years.”
Ted Bischak, the senior vice president of asset management for Maguire Properties, which owns the Lantana campus, said the alternative proposal provided the building a significant buffer from the maintenance facility while the hybrid plan pushes those activities up to the property line.
“The buffer for pedestrians and bicycles is removed and there is no conceivable way in our opinion to fix this,” he said.
Rick Thrope, the chief executive officer of the Exposition Construction Authority, said that there is a sound studio located within 10 feet of the Gold Line tracks in Pasadena and that impacts were successfully mitigated.
Residents spoke against plans to place a facility near their homes, criticizing Expo officials for waiting until the previous evening to hold its first community meeting about the maintenance facility. Expo has pledged to hold another design workshop with neighbors.
Residents also expressed discontent with the screening criteria that the consultant used in its evaluation, which included weeding out properties that were too close to parks and schools and were under the adequate parcel size.
“I’m shocked and disappointed that neighborhoods are apparently not on the same level as schools and parks, neighborhoods that are occupied 24 hours a day,” Michael Storms said.
Darrell Clarke, who serves as the co-chair on Friends 4 Expo Transit and lived more than three years about half a block south of the Verizon site, said the maintenance yard will not produce the same health hazards as the I-10 Freeway or City Yards, which residents said will join the Expo facility in creating a “toxic triangle.”
“This is not a freeway with that kind of noise and air pollution,” he said.
Davis pointed out that the Verizon site is also currently a maintenance yard that probably produces carcinogens.
“They are refueling vehicles on that site and there are few things that create more air pollution than refueling vehicles and they are not refueling them with clean air, it’s gasoline,” she said. “There are things going on at that site now that are probably having a negative impact on the neighborhood.”
There’s some skepticism about whether the Colorado site will be financially feasible given the relocation costs of 27 businesses. City Manager Lamont Ewell said that the hybrid plan is estimated to cost about $100 to $120 million and the Colorado option would be double that figure.
Councilman Bob Holbrook said he has a gut feeling that the site will create a furor in the city.
“It’ll probably be $250 million plus 27 different law firms marching in here with all the employees that work in those places and I just think … that site isn’t going to make it and to go down that long dusty road is concerning,” he said.