CITY HALL — The City Council on Tuesday unanimously agreed to a land swap involving Santa Monica College and the Expo Metro Line Construction Authority that paves the way for the creation of a “buffer zone” to shield Pico Neighborhood residents from some of the impact from a rail maintenance yard planned for 2900 Exposition Blvd.

The deal, which still needs approval from SMC and Expo, would allow City Hall to acquire a 100-foot by 1,000-foot parcel of land along Exposition Boulevard adjacent to the planned maintenance facility. There are no firm plans for the so-called buffer zone yet, but the site is expected to lessen the noise and other pollution impacts from the rail yard on surrounding residents.

City Manager Rod Gould has announced plans to hold community meetings to help guide the design of the site, which could include a public park, community meeting rooms or affordable housing units.

Under the property exchange, SMC would trade a 2.35-acre parking lot located at Stewart Street and Exposition Boulevard to City Hall and acquire a long-term lease of a city-owned property at 3400-3500 Airport Ave. near Santa Monica Airport. SMC would also receive a purchase option on the airport property.

Expo would in turn give City Hall the buffer zone site as part of its deal to acquire the planned maintenance yard property at 2900 Exposition Blvd.

The vote Tuesday night was a significant, though expected, step in a three-way negotiation that began last November.

The agreement passed the council with a 6-0 vote after little discussion. Mayor Bobby Shriver did not attend the meeting.

“The college is excited to be part of a community solution toward providing light rail to Santa Monica,” said Don Girard, SMC’s senior director of government relations and institutional communications.

SMC’s Board of Trustees, he added, will consider the agreement in early December.

The first stage of the Expo Light Rail project, a link between Downtown Los Angeles and Culver City, is currently under construction. The extension that will bring the line to Santa Monica’s Civic Center is scheduled for completion by 2015, though a delay appears likely. In Santa Monica, the line is expected to travel down Colorado Avenue, ending at Fourth Street.

Denny Zane, a consultant for the college and a former mayor of Santa Monica, said the land swap agreement “really shows a remarkable degree of collective and cooperative spirit among these two major institutions.”

“I think it’s a real good sign of good health in our public institutions,” he said.

The maintenance yard is not without controversy as residents living near the proposed site have challenged Expo and City Hall to find another location further away from homes. Residents in the Pico Neighborhood said they have unfairly shouldered the burden of progress, with Interstate 10 slicing through their community while City Hall’s Waste Transfer Station sits close by in the City Yards.

nickt@smdp.com

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