World renowned architect Frank Gehry’s signature Santa Monica project sailed through its final preliminary review Tuesday, as the City Council lauded the design as “iconic.” The project’s centerpiece, a curving 12-story hotel tower, will be wrapped in white metal to reflect the golden hues of the setting sun from its perch on Ocean Avenue and Santa Monica Boulevard.
“He wants me to make the greatest work of architecture ever possible for this site,” Gehry said of developer Jeff Worthe. “I think it’s a special opportunity for all of us.”
The Council was the fourth board to review the latest design iteration, which removed ten stories from the central tower originally included in the 2013 plans. The project now includes a 115-room hotel, a 40,000 square foot museum, about 80 apartments including 19 rent-controlled units and 18 deed-restricted “affordable” units, 24,700 square feet of retail space, and a 5,000 square foot public observation deck.
Worthe Real Estate Group will now begin negotiations for a Development Agreement, which will require an additional slate of community benefits in exchange for allowing the project to reach heights above 84 feet. The Council urged staff to negotiate for more affordable housing, a high level or energy efficiency and a robust transportation plan to offset car trips to the site.
The 89-year-old architect’s own house in Santa Monica put him on the map with its use of unconventional materials in 1978. Gehry has designed several other buildings in the city but considers the Worthe project his legacy achievement.
“I’m kind of old for this,” Gehry said after waiting more than six hours for his agenda item at the City Council meeting. “It’s a special project.”
If completed, the parking lot on Santa Monica Boulevard would be replaced by a winding paseo of shops and restaurants. Locals and tourists will be able to walk along the paseo to the entrance for the observation deck, with 360 degree views of the Pacific Ocean, the Pier and the mountains.
Current plans preserve two landmarked buildings on Ocean Avenue, converting one of the former homes into a gift shop for the museum.
The so-called Ocean Avenue Project will likely be back before Santa Monica’s boards and commissions for formal hearings in late 2019. It is one of three downtown projects that will require a Development Agreement, including a city-owned project at 4th Street and Arizona Avenue and the Fairmont Miramar on Ocean Avenue and Wilshire Boulevard.