Frank Gehry designed this hotel proposed for the corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and Ocean Avenue. (File rendering)

Frank Gehry designed this hotel proposed for the corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and Ocean Avenue. (File rendering)

Worthe Real Estate Group and M. David Paul Associates have announced a major, new Downtown development. It’s a 22-story luxury hotel designed by Santa Monica’s own world famous architect Frank Gehry. Yowza!

The proposed development will have 125 hotel rooms, 22 condominiums and plenty of street level retail space.

The  “Ocean Avenue Project” will be bounded by Santa Monica Boulevard, Ocean Avenue and Second Street. It’ll include a 36,000-square-foot art museum that will incorporate a landmark Spanish Colonial house and a Victorian house on Ocean Avenue.

A four-level, underground garage will accommodate 460 vehicles. The site will include affordable housing to replace 19 rent-controlled units that will be demolished when construction commences.

But, it’s the 244-foot-tall, main tower that has everyone buzzing. It’s trademark Gehry with white, undulating, twisty walls similar in concept to Disney Hall or the wavy-walled, 76-floor “New York” condo tower in Manhattan.

At ground level, Gehry’s tower will be on the interior of the site set back from surrounding streets.  A public viewing deck is planned for the top.  The tower will be embraced by two- to five-floor buildings housing shops and eateries. Pedestrian paseos would flow throughout the site.

In addition to making a striking architectural statement guaranteed to attract worldwide attention, the project will create hundreds of new jobs and generate millions of dollars in new tax revenue for the city.

I predict this will redefine Santa Monica, which, with a few exceptions, is known for its bland, derivative architecture. Best of all, the principals involved are long-time community members unlike some out-of-town developers from Texas and elsewhere with large developments pending here.

Gehry’s family home is on 23rd Street and he’s lived there since the late 1970s. He designed the original Santa Monica Place (since renovated) and the Edgemar Center on Main Street. Co-developer David Paul Associates has owned a substantial portion of the project site since 1977.

There’ll be a lengthy planning and approval process. Developers have told the news media that they think they have a good development and are looking forward to working with the community to make it better. That’s always a good sign.

I’m really excited about this project. Yes, it’s a major development but it has many great things going for it.  I feel it will be a breathtaking architectural Downtown centerpiece representing a progressive, forward thinking and creative Santa Monica.  Um-umm!

 

Tumlin controversy continues

 

Weeks ago, I wrote about Jeffrey Tumlin, one of City Hall’s key planning consultants. Tumlin, a principal at Nelson\Nygaard Consulting Associates, Inc., has advised on almost all major city traffic, parking and urban planning projects over the last few years.

One of Tumlin’s more recent recommendations was to reduce parking requirements for new developments and retail markets because, he said, cheap, convenient parking encourages more driving which leads to more traffic congestion and affects City Hall’s ability to reach the sustainability goals stated in the recently adopted Land Use and Circulation Element of the General Plan.

Last week, a local architect e-mailed this: “In his ‘Shape the Future 2025’ presentation, Tumlin attempts to separate large-scale development from traffic problems. But, there’s no practical way to decouple traffic from project size, especially in situations where development agreements allow projects to balloon out of all reasonable proportion,

“[Tumlin’s] decoupling of parking recommendation simply becomes a screen behind which developers would be allowed to build what they want, so long as they provide the traffic-reduction measures (traffic demand management programs, encourage walking, bicycling and mass transit use, free bus and rail passes, bike racks, parking buyouts, car-pooling, etc.) that Tumlin advocates.”

Basically, Tumlin is saying, “Rather than limiting development to limit traffic, limit traffic directly.” Therefore, the e-mail continued, “Once you’ve limited traffic, there’s no need to limit development, which could then proceed unhindered.”

Tumlin’s starry-eyed proposals have exacerbated our traffic congestion and parking problems but when he described Santa Monicans as NIMBYs (Not In My Back Yard) on his firm’s website, the crap hit the fan.

Tumlin posted that NIMBYs dominated local politics and used fears of increased traffic and congestion as their primary tool for stopping development. He couldn’t be talking about the Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights council members who approve his contract, could he?

When fed up residents called for Tumlin’s firing, he responded with a song and dance about the term (NIMBY) applying to the local reaction to development in 2005, but not today. Nevertheless, he refused to remove the NIMBY reference from his online resume.

Diana Gordon, co-chair of  Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City, said, “If  Mr. Tumlin sincerely has changed his mind about residents, he wouldn’t now be proposing ideas that will only benefit developers, such as taking away our parking and supporting more and greater density development …”

Despite the brouhaha, Tumlin has dug in his heels. Planning Director David Martin is standing by his man and predictably, nobody on either the Planning Commission or City Council has even suggested reviewing Tumlin’s contract.

It’s bad enough that Martin and his department have fantasy world consultants like Tumlin and Neal Payton on the payroll, but with this fiasco, they’ve lost all remaining credibility.

 

Council considers Bergamot Area Plan 

 

Speaking of fiascos, tomorrow night the City Council will review the draft Bergamot Area Plan and make recommendations to staff. Then, the final plan and CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) compliance will be presented to both the Planning Commission and City Council in late spring/early summer.  The fun starts in Council Chambers beginning at 6:30 p.m.

 

 

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