Houston, Texas-based mega-developer Hines purchased the old Paper Mate pen company property in August, 2007 and announced plans to build “300,000 square feet of entertainment related offices, post production facilities and studio space” on the 7.16 acre site bounded by 26th Street, Olympic Boulevard and Stewart Street.

Is anybody surprised that the proposed project has more than tripled in size to nearly a million square feet? Now called the Bergamot Transit Village Center, Hines plans on obtaining a development agreement from City Hall and is beginning the series of required community meetings to assess public opinion about the project. The first meeting is at the Thelma Terry Center in Virginia Avenue Park on Dec.15 at 7 p.m., Residents better show up in force and voice their opinion or suffer the consequences.

Citizens will be able to review “the concept plans for a new mixed-use neighborhood commercial/residential/creative office project consisting of approximately 579,000 square feet of creative arts office space, approximately 330,000 square feet of residential, and approximately 60,000 square feet of community serving retail space,” according to a legal notice posted in this newspaper on Dec. 4.

“This meeting is the part of the preliminary concept phase of the Development Agreement process where residents, property owners, and interested parties will have the opportunity to provide direct feedback to city staff and the developer with regards to the concept plans,” the notice says. The meeting is the first step in the development agreement process and occurs prior to Planning Commission and City Council reviews of the plans and input as to whether a development agreement application may be filed.

Bergamot Transit Village Center will be about the size of the Water Garden complex immediately to the west. It will substantially contribute to traffic, pollution and parking woes in the area — and that’s without three other major projects pending a block away at Stewart Street and Colorado Avenue and eastward along Colorado.

• 2834 Colorado Ave. at Stewart Street, as described on the planning department case list as a five-floor, 151,600-square-foot entertainment/post-production facility with 584 subterranean parking spaces on 1.8 acres. Lionsgate entertainment is eying this development for their new corporate headquarters.

• 2848 to 2912 Colorado (Roberts Business Center) is a mixed-use project with 84 multi-family residential units, 135,000 square feet of “creative” office space and 12,000 square feet of commercial space.

Village Trailer Park, LLC proposes a mixed-use, 229,860-square-foot development on a 3.85 acre mobile home park site at 2930 Colorado. Plans are for 240 condominiums and 109 low-Income and single room apartment units totaling approximately 181,800 square feet. The project will have 40,030 square feet of commercial space, 8,030 square feet of retail space and 503 spots in subterranean and surface parking configurations.

A mile away in West Los Angeles is a recently announced 1.3-million square foot development on 11 acres near the corner of Olympic and Bundy Drive. If built, the “Bundy Village and Medical Park” will have 385,000 feet of medical space, 20,000 square feet of retail/commercial space and parking for 3,276 vehicles.

With the arrival of Expo Light Rail, there’s a good chance of additional development in and around Bergamot Station across Olympic from the Hines project. A hotel, expanded galleries with amenities and a parking garage have been mentioned as possible improvements.

Hines and its financial partner Buchanan Street Partners have thrown a lot of money into local politics over the last two years to grease the development skids and help establish a favorable political environment for their humongous project.

According to political financial disclosure statements, Hines spent $99,000 to oppose last fall’s failed, slow-growth ballot Measure T, known as the Residents Initiative to Fight Traffic (RIFT). Hines employees, their spouses and affiliates also made numerous individual donations to three City Council members last year.

Councilman Richard Bloom received a total of $2,500 from 10 people associated with Hines for his 2008 re-election bid and Mayor Ken Genser received at least 11 $250 donations ($2,750) from those connected with Hines. Councilwoman Pam O’Connor, who is up for re-election next year, accepted $2,250 in personal donations from employees and associates of Hines in March, 2008. Personal contributions to candidates are restricted to $250 maximum, per person.

Buchanan Street Partners is a “leading real estate investment management firm headquartered in Newport Beach.” Its employees, spouses, friends and/or associates also contributed $1,000 each to Genser, O’Connor and Bloom reelection committees.

I’m assuming that once the Hines’ development agreement reaches the City Council, Bloom, O’Connor and Genser will recuse themselves or risk being accused of conflicts of interest and “selling” their vote.

This means only the four council members remaining may be able to vote on the agreement — assuming that one or more of them doesn’t accept contributions from Hines, its partners, employees or affiliates between now and Nov. 2.

Bill can be reached at mr.bilbau@gmail.com

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