BERGAMOT STATION — A major redevelopment of the former Papermate site previously scheduled for review in June will now be put off until the beginning of 2013, and a local anti-development group is taking credit.
Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City (SMCLC) announced in a release Tuesday that their opposition to the development, along with concerns from other neighborhood groups and even state agencies, had stalled the proposed Bergamot Transit Village, a 766,094-square-foot mix of apartments and shops slated for the east end of Santa Monica.
City Hall, however, denies that the group had any influence, instead saying that both the final draft of an environmental document for the project and negotiations with the developer were taking longer than expected.
SMCLC, which formed to fight a remodel of Santa Monica Place that included building three, 21-story condo towers, has long opposed Hines’ plan to build the project at the proposed size, saying that its traffic impacts were not accurately reflected in environmental documents and that the project was moving ahead of a wider planning effort for the area.
The group hired a traffic engineer and an environmental attorney to parse through thousands of pages of documents and come up with alternative analyses.
Those called the previous work “shoddy” and suggested that it was impossible to look at the Papermate site alone when a trio of developments totaling just under 700,000 square feet were planned on nearby Colorado Avenue.
SMCLC also objected to the rapid pace with which developments were coming before the Planning Commission and City Council. The schedule included nine meetings for the Planning Commission alone between the end of April and May, which gave decision makers little time to review massive amounts of material.
At the time, Diana Gordon of SMCLC compared the problem to a sewer system failure.
“This month you have to look at three of the largest projects in the city’s history,” she said. “It’s not doable in a contentious, full and accurate way.”
Those projects included the Bergamot Transit Village, the area plan for the section of Santa Monica that contains the proposed transit village and a condominium complex at what is now the Village Trailer Park.
By the next Planning Commission meeting, the nine meetings requested of the Planning Commission had dropped to six, and the Bergamot Transit Village development agreement, previously set for late May, had been pushed out a month.
As of this week, the Planning Commission won’t see the project until the end of 2012 or beginning of 2013.
The new schedule will give all involved more breathing room, said Planning Director David Martin on Tuesday.
Officials must respond to all of the comments submitted on the draft environmental impact report before the final can go to the City Council, a process Martin described as “very time consuming.”
Additionally, staff is still negotiating with the developer over the development agreement, essentially a contract between City Hall and Hines that allows the corporation to exceed the zoning code in exchange for benefits for the community like childcare centers and parks.
Planners have pushed for an alternative that would include more housing and less office space in the transit village, and the developer is considering it, Martin said.
The mix of office and housing will impact other aspects of the negotiations, including the amount of affordable housing required under code or mix of impacts to be addressed.
In the end, the City Council will be asked to certify both the environmental impact report and approve the contract on the same night, Martin said.
“Both things became issues and both of them needed more time. It made sense to continue things,” Martin said.
That works out well for SMCLC, because it carries the large developments past the November 2012 election when terms expire for Mayor Richard Bloom, Mayor Pro Tem Gleam Davis and councilmembers Terry O’Day and Bobby Shriver.
Most of the council members have accepted donations from developers in the past, according to the Santa Monica Transparency Project, a group of residents that picks through campaign finance records.
“That means we will be able to track and publicize council candidate donations in this upcoming election and continue to build our broad coalition to challenge the project unless it is suitably reduced in size and impacts,” SMCLC wrote in the release.