Congested traffic on neighborhood streets is driving community concerns over a planned four-story development that stretches an entire city block across from Pancho’s Tacos at 2903 Lincoln Boulevard. The City Council will consider the neighborhood’s plight at Tuesday’s public meeting when they hear an appeal on the Development Review Permit for the 47-unit apartment complex with ground floor shops and restaurants from the CIM Group.
“We just see mass out to the edges,” said the appellant, Rachel Kelley, before the Planning Commission ultimately approved the permit in a 5-2 vote Jan. 10. The promised two levels of underground parking with 150 spaces have done little to quell neighborhood fears of congestion and increased competition for precious parking on Ashland Avenue and Wilson Place.
“Neighbors have made a fair argument for years about the hazardous, unsafe conditions on Ashland only to be ignored, and our letters to the City unanswered,” said the written appeal.
While voting to approve the project, Planning Commissioner Leslie Lambert, who lives on Ashland, empathized with the community concerns.
“The area between 11th and Lincoln on Ashland is a nightmare,” Lambert said, blaming the app Waze for increased traffic on neighborhood streets. “It’s a very narrow street given the volume of traffic on it. We can’t widen it without taking private property.”
Lambert suggested residents should apply for preferential parking. Despite circulation concerns, she and other commissioners applauded the project for bringing more housing to one of the city’s main corridors.
“I think this is exactly what we’re looking for in a mixed-use project,” Lambert said.
Kelley is appealing the project on a number of points, including the fact the city’s planning director, David Martin, was vice president of the CIM Group from 1999 to 2009. She criticizes staff reports on the project as deficient.
“The residents of Santa Monica are not adequately served nor protected by our representative city planning staff who, as public employees serving the City of Santa Monica, should be working in concert with the residents as well as with the developers,” said the appeal.
In response, a staff report to the City Council clarifies Martin has not received income from CIM Group since he left the company in 2009. Staff admits the report submitted to the Planning Commission contained errors and typos.
“The Planning Commission staff report erroneously stated that no interior setback is required,” said the staff report to City Council. “Notwithstanding this typographical error, the project was fully reviewed and found to be compliant with all applicable Zoning Ordinance development standards.”
Any move by the Council may be restricted by the Housing Accountability Act. The state law says cities must demonstrate they cannot mitigate a “specific, adverse impact upon the public health or safety” in order to deny a housing project or lower the density. Last year, the legislature updated the law to say cities can face fines for violations.
Back in January, Commissioner Amy Anderson urged her fellow Planning Commission members to approve the project despite concerns about the massing along Lincoln and traffic on neighboring streets. Anderson said the city must build more apartments to address the statewide housing crisis.
“We need to be honest with ourselves that it’s behavior like this that keeps housing from getting built. This long process. This 3-hour meeting. If we really want to help and get units built we should figure out a way to get this built..and communicate to the world we want more projects like this,” Anderson said.
The City Council will begin discussion of public agenda items no earlier than 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 24 inside City Hall Council Chambers, 1685 Main Street Room 213.