Previously, I wrote about the development agreement for a new Downtown hotel that was before the Planning Commission on Wednesday, June 10. The agreement requested by developer Maxser & Co. was discussed and, by a five-to-one vote, forwarded on to the City Council for review and approval.

The controversial project is a conversion of a landmarked 1928 office tower at 710 Wilshire Blvd. into a 44-room hotel with a restaurant and retail space. A new 84-foot high hotel wing with 240 hotel rooms and 16 apartments on an elevated platform (think 1960s) with an open paseo, additional retail shops including a food market and four levels of subterranean parking with space for approximately 480 vehicles would be added on the current rear surface parking lot.

The 84-year-old Spanish Colonial Revival-style tower was designated a Santa Monica Landmark on Sept. 12, 2005. Landmark restrictions protect the tower’s exterior facade but don’t apply to new construction. The proposed new hotel wing facing Seventh Street is overly large, bulky and rivals Maxser’s faux-Tudor style Jolly Roger Motor Hotel in the Marina for unadulterated tackiness. The present parking lot cries out for development, but this is not the right project.

Nevertheless, Planning Commissioners Jay Johnson, Gerda Paumgarten, Gwynne Pugh, Jim Ries and Terry O’Day voted to forward this pig’s ear to the City Council for consideration for a development agreement that would allow greater height and mass than allowed by the present zoning codes. Only Ted Winterer saw how lame this was and voted no. Hank Koning was absent.

Maxser was a major contributor against Measure T, the failed ballot proposition last year that would have limited commercial development in the city. The developer contributed $10,000 to Save Our City, the anti-T committee co-chaired by Planning Commission Chairman O’Day that raised nearly $800,000 (mostly from developers and real estate interests) to defeat the measure. 

Without an ordinance that may have slowed the oncoming parade of large commercial projects, proposals for large developments, especially in the mid-cities neighborhood, continue unabated. 

A development agreement for the construction of a motion picture office and studio facility at 1834 Colorado Ave. (at Stewart Street) is the subject of a joint meeting between the Planning Commission and Architectural Review Board Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the City Council chambers.

The proposed project — possibly the future home of Lionsgate Entertainment — is a 151,600 square foot, five floor building, with underground parking for 584 vehicles. A separate child care center is also planned for the property owned by California Creative Studios, LLC. Neighbors concerned about traffic and other impacts would be wise to show up and voice their concerns.  

Big commercial developments aren’t the only real estate projects that are getting special attention from City Hall these days. Previously, the City Council had exempted 100 percent affordable housing projects from public development review as a way to expedite development of public housing without your (and my) annoying “two cents worth.”

Community Corporation of Santa Monica, the city’s largest public housing provider with nearly 2,000 units in their portfolio, has purchased 2802 Pico Blvd. and plans to turn the present car repair lot into a new, four floor, public housing project. 

Public housing projects receive bonuses allowing for greater height and density — in excess of current zoning codes — and usually offer little or no opportunity for public comment. The final community workshop for 2802 Pico is a rare opportunity for neighbors to speak out about this project’s size, parking access, retail space (if any), congestion and other concerns. It will be held Wednesday, June 24, at 7 p.m. at the Santa Monica Business Park Conference Center, 3200 Ocean Park Blvd.  

The 2802 Pico project is “for large family occupancy” according to a Planning Department memo. It will consist of 36 or 37 two and three bedroom units for very low to low income families and may have one small store front. Sunset Park neighbors are already concerned because the project is on commercial property at Pico and 28th Street and its projected height is four floors (40 feet) in a C4, commercially zoned area with an existing 30-foot height limit.

A similar 33-unit apartment project is being developed by city-affiliated CCSM at 2602 Broadway — formerly the Berkshire skilled nursing care facility. Another 32-unit housing project is proposed to replace an existing 14-unit apartment building at 430 Pico. All three projects are expected to be ready for occupancy by summer, 2012.

The new developments just keep on coming. Our increasingly pro-development Planning Commission and City Council tend to approve everything fobbed off on them these days. Maybe its because they’ve found a new, almost inexhaustible source of campaign contributions — developer money.

Then they atone for their greed by promoting massive amounts of public housing for non-residents while telling us it’s benefiting Santa Monicans. What nonsense!

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