CITY HALL — City Council ran out of time to make a decision about the controversial Hines housing and office development at Tuesday night’s meeting.
More than 125 people requested to speak and public comment lasted more than three hours, running into early Wednesday morning.
Before the marathon public comment session, council — realizing that the meeting was going to go long — voted to continue the meeting on Feb. 4.
There will be no public comment at that meeting.
The development plan being debated includes 427 apartments, 374,434 square feet of creative offices, 15,500 square feet of restaurants, and 13,891 square feet of retail in five buildings, all at heights around 80 feet, on a 7-acre plot of land.
The project would bring in a total of $32 million in community benefits over 55 years. More than $9 million of that would go toward the 93 affordable housing units. Another $11 million goes toward the early childhood education programs. Contributions to bike sharing and traffic reduction would total more than $3 million.
Hines proposes implementing showers, washers, and toilets that save more water than California law requires.
The developer would strive, according to city officials, for net-zero water and energy use. It would create on-site renewable energy through solar panels.
The agreement anticipates that the large-scale project would take time to build and gives Hines 10 years to find tenants for the buildings.
The project squeaked out Planning Commission approval in a 4 to 3 vote. The three dissenting commissioners tried to reduce the project’s size and give it more residential units.
The site is located at the corner of Olympic Boulevard and 26th Street, the old Paper Mate factory.
By 6 p.m. every seat in the Council Chamber was filled. Residents found seats in front of televisions on the first and second floors of City Hall.
While many came out to speak on both sides of the project, those in opposition were more vocal in the City Hall viewing areas where decorum was not enforced.
While the chamber itself was quiet, the crowd outside erupted into applause after Councilmember Ted Winterer inquired about ways to hold the developers accountable for their traffic demand management programs. When public speakers chastised the project, anti-Hines residents whooped it up like they were at a Super Bowl party. One woman asked how many people downstairs opposed the project and a majority of the hands shot up. Another woman dropped off a basket of tangerines for those watching the meeting.
A steady stream of residents in favor of the project spoke throughout the night. While potential for increased traffic to an already gridlocked area was the primary concern of most of the people opposed to the project, those in favor of the project had a wide range of reasons.
Irene Zivi lauded the proposed agreement for the $11 million that it would require Hines to pay to early childhood education programs in community benefits.
Kevin Pelletier supported the improved aesthetics of the current site, which he called blighted, and the 24 affordable apartments for extremely low-income individuals.
Members of the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce spoke in favor of the economic benefits of the project and the promise by developers to build a $2 million park in the area.
Traffic was the rallying cry of the opposition.
John Murdock played a video of the traffic on Interstate 10 during rush hour.
Recreation and Parks Commissioner Phil Brock said the park benefits would normally cause him to do a backflip (assuming he could do one), but that the incoming Expo Light Rail is not going to solve all the traffic problems.
Former City Council candidate Armen Melkonians said that his online petition in opposition to the project garnered 571 signatures, which, he claimed, could translate to nearly 5,000 signatures for a referendum vote if the development was approved as is.
Several residents called for Mayor Pam O’Connor to recuse herself because she received campaign contributions from Hines employees.
City Attorney Marsha Moutrie said none of the contributions would disqualify O’Connor.
O’Connor explained that Santa Monica Municipal Code does not prohibit council members from accepting donations from parties who have not yet received a benefit. In Hines case it would include permission to build above and beyond the zoning code. If council grants Hines permission, council members would not be able to accept campaign contributions from those associated with the company.
Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights, the city’s largest political party and endorser of every council member except Bob Holbrook, came out against the project earlier this month noting traffic as the chief concern. Every neighborhood group and the Santa Monica Democratic Club also announced opposition to the project.
Santa Monica currently has a shortage of creative office space, numerous city officials have said. Google left the city for a larger space in Venice and Riot Games, one of the world’s most successful video game companies, recently announced it was leaving for a campus in West Los Angeles.
Sony and Red Bull face similar struggles.
An estimated 1,500 to 2,100 employees would report to the site according to city officials. An estimated 800 residents would live on-site.
Trip caps, or a limit to the number of drivers coming to and from the site, would be placed on Hines. For every driver that exceeds the cap, Hines would have to pay $5 plus the average daily parking rate.
The environmental impact report projects that 6,926 trips would be created by the project every day. About 450 trips would be during morning rush hour and 530 during evening rush hour.
Three other alternatives were examined and they all created fewer trips but did not meet the goals of the site as set out by the Bergamot Area Plan, city officials said.