CITY HALL — Santa Monica residents found something to like Tuesday night in the Bergamot Area Plan, a draft document meant to guide development in the mixed-use district envisioned to grow around the city’s first light rail stop.
The plan, over two and a half years in the making, lays out explicit standards for business types, building densities and even types of streets that will be included in the area encompassing the existing Bergamot Station arts complex, new train station and surrounding residential and office uses.
It proposes developing the area around a central “spine” along Nebraska Avenue that connects the mixed-use creative district on the eastern side of the development with the transit village proposed near the Exposition Light Rail Station near 26th Street and Olympic Boulevard.
Branching off from that central column are four districts, each with specific standards and development densities meant to dictate the kinds of businesses and lifestyles that would take place there.
While the much-lauded Land Use and Circulation Element, or LUCE, which was adopted in 2010 to guide development in the city, identified only two districts for the area — the mixed-use creative district and Bergamot Transit Village — officials added two additional, low-density areas called “conservation districts” to help transition better into the existing neighborhoods that surround the area.
Those corridors will be earmarked for pedestrian use, and have notably lower densities (also called floor area ratio) than were otherwise allowed in the LUCE.
The plan also spells out specific community benefits that would be requested from developers who enter into contracts with City Hall called development agreements that allow them to build above and beyond the standards set down in the zoning code.
That won support from residents, like Mary Marlow of the Ocean Park Association, who have been asking for a clear community benefits package for a long time.
“The community benefits section is a good start to tell developers what we want and need,” Marlow said.
The plan still has room for improvement in the eyes of many residents, including those in the Pico Neighborhood who feel that amenities like the buffer park promised to them to protect their neighborhoods from the intrusion of the train were being co-opted as open space for others.
Christel Andersen, a member of the Pico Neighborhood, sounded irate as she addressed council members.
“I’m shocked. How much more do you want to take from our neighborhood?” she asked.
Councilmember Kevin McKeown backed her up, saying that Stewart Park — also listed as a place to provide open space — was “spoken for” and the buffer park was a benefit specifically for the community members.
He also asked city planners to focus on affordable housing concerns and ensuring that enough housing was provided for the area to match up with the number of jobs envisioned in industries as wide-ranging as tech companies and start ups to theaters, jazz clubs and restaurants.
Although parking has been a source of controversy since city consultants suggested new construction provide less parking for new patrons and residents, traffic received much of the focus Tuesday night, particularly policies applied to businesses to encourage their employees to find other ways to work.
That includes forcing workers to pay for parking by the day, rather than “all-you-can-eat” parking passes, and area-wide traffic management plans to encourage carpooling.
“Let’s have ambitious goals, because none of this is going to work if we clog up the roads any further,” said Councilmember Ted Winterer.
Councilmember Gleam Davis asked for more flexibility in the plan, which sets out angles at which buildings may relate to one another down to the degree.
“I’m very nervous about the rigidity,” Davis said. “Stiff, rigid requirements start to get really similar-looking architecture.”
Only four members of the City Council were present to vote, but McKeown, Winterer, Davis and Mayor Pro Tem Terry O’Day unanimously agreed to move the plan forward. Planners will now begin environmental review of the document.
Those who wish to see it or comment may visit www.bergamotplan.net.