Santa Monica Daily Press
The City Council will decide the fate of 164 new apartments in the downtown area tonight when it reviews Development Agreements for two plots owned by NMS Properties and its offshoot, WNMS Communities.
The developments are connected – both require the Council to sign off on excess parking spaces and will contribute to the construction to affordable housing on Colorado Avenue.
One of the lots, 1430-1444 Lincoln Boulevard, is part of a complicated land-swap with the City to build Fire Station No. 1.
The mixed-use building will replace a parking lot across from Hi De Ho Comics and could have easily slid through the planning pipeline with just administrative approval if not for NMS’s plan to construct nearly 300 parking spaces under the building.
NMS says the spaces are obligated by an easement at 1337 7th Street, where the City will eventually build the fire station.
The 5-story, 100-unit mixed-use development would bring at least $1.13 million in community benefits. Those benefits include $736,000 toward parks and recreation programs and $180,000 to support cultural arts.
The Planning Commission and City staff have recommended the Council increase the Parks fee and double the Transportation Impact Fee, which would bring the combined community benefits to over $1.48 million, according to a staff report.
The applicant does not agree with the Planning Commission’s recommendation to increase the fees.
The Council will also consider a Development Agreement at 1325 6th Street that would allow a 6-story, 64-unit mixed-use development.
This development, also from NMS, will also include excess parking. The project is north of the Santa Monica Main Public Library and a half-mile walk from the EXPO light rail station at the corner of 4th Street and Colorado Avenue.
The project was initially submitted in 2012.
Current plans for the project include a four-level subterranean garage with 138 parking spaces. A report by the City says 43 of those spaces fulfill a parking easement recorded on the property in 2012.
Two Planning Commissioners voted against the Sixth Street project because the CEO of NMS, Neil Shekhter, and his associates were found to have forged contracts and destroyed evidence by a Los Angeles Superior Court Judge.
The ruling was part of a civil case involving separate properties developed and managed by NMS incil Santa Monica and Los Angeles. Shekhter has appealed the ruling.
“I feel the City of Santa Monica has been at the behest of a giant shell game moving things around and that the City has been gamed,” Commissioner Richard McKinnon said during the meeting in October where the Commission approved the DA.
Commissioner Jennifer Kennedy also voted against the DA based on her “memory of what this owner-operator has done in the past.”
In the wake of the court case, Councilmembers Kevin McKeown and Sue Himmelrich ordered an audit of NMS contracts, agreements and affordable housing requirements in Santa Monica.
After a four-month probe, the developer was found to be in compliance with city contracts and requirements regarding all 23 buildings they own and manage in the city.
The projects will achieve a minimum LEED Platinum certification, use 15 percent less energy than required by state code, and include solar panels on the roof to power the building’s common areas.
Both projects will be among the first to comply with the City’s water neutrality ordinance, meaning the developer must offset additional water use caused by the building.
Both developments will satisfy the city’s affordable housing requirements by the construction of a senior housing project at 711 Colorado Avenue.