The Bergamot Transit Village Center

The Bergamot Transit Village Center

The Bergamot Transit Village Center (BTVC), the proposed development on the former Paper Mate site on Olympic Boulevard, is before the Planning Commission again Wednesday night (Dec. 4) at City Hall for public review. Planning staff recommends moving this development forward, but staff has never met a development they didn’t like, even one that has as many major problems as this colossus.

It’s been in the works since 2009 and described as “the packing boxes the Water Garden came in.” Although some of the space has changed from office to residential and various elements have been redesigned, the project, in the words of local architect Ron Goldman, is, “a residential village masquerading as a business park.”

Hines, a Houston-based mega-developer, proposes 766,908 square feet of construction spread over five buildings as high as 84 feet. The project will contain 374,434 square feet of “creative office” space in three of the buildings. The residential portion will consist of 472 rental units and 26 artist live/work spaces in two buildings.

Nearly 30,000 square feet of restaurant/retail space are proposed for the project. The site will also have a total of 87,083 square feet of open park space in five public areas.  A 1,936-vehicle subterranean parking garage will contribute an estimated 7,585 new daily car trips, according to the Environmental Impact Report for the development.

Plans also call for an extension of Nebraska Avenue between 26th and Stewart streets as well as two new north-south streets with traffic signals on Olympic. So, expect huge traffic and congestion increases among other negatives.

Hines says its parking and traffic estimates are based on an (out-of-date) formula of 286 square feet of space for each office employee. However, last year, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported, “The average for all companies for square feet per worker in 2017 will be 151 square feet. This is more consistent with a “creative office” concept which  eliminates enclosed offices and cubicles for a more compact and interactive bullpen configuration.

More employees equal more vehicles and more trips. Estimates are that when fully occupied, the total number of daily trips will be closer to 15,000 opposed to the 7,585 Hines claims.

Even with the lower figures, the development will generate significant and unavoidable impacts at 25 intersections and on numerous streets in Santa Monica and West Los Angeles — impacts that neither Expo Light Rail and all the bicycle racks in the world can’t mitigate.

Then there’s the jobs/housing imbalance. Since the previous Land Use and Circulation Element (LUCE) was adopted in 1984, over 9-million square feet of office and commercial space has been built in Santa Monica. This so-called imbalance is responsible for an estimated 100,000 to 175,000 people commuting here daily for jobs.

City Hall plans to correct the imbalance by building thousands of units of new housing — as if new residents/workers aren’t going to drive after they move here or even maintain long-term employment in Santa Monica and never commute in the future.

Remember when we were told that all the new development will reduce daily rush hour travel? It’s all a bunch of hooey. But, it’s one reason why Hines was coerced to alter their development to accommodate 500 residential/live work rental units.

The Planning Commission must demand serious reductions in the BTVC’s size and scope if a whole slew of negatives — like traffic congestion — are to be mitigated. Even if all of the “creative office” space were to become housing, there still would be serious traffic impacts.

More traffic means more air pollution from vehicle exhaust. This development will substantially increase the demand for dwindling natural resources such as water and natural gas. The same with electricity, sewage and solid waste disposal capacity. There is absolutely no way this (and the raft of other smaller developments proposed around the city) can be called “sustainable” or “environmentally friendly.”

The community benefits proposed, including 75 units of low-income/workforce housing, won’t offset the crowding, damage to the environment and our ability to get around town for decades to come. Commissioners need to set aside “social agenda” and do what’s right for all of us. Smaller is better. Much smaller is best!

Speaking of other developments, the community meeting for the 500 Broadway development is Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013 at the Main Library. This is one of the larger Downtown projects in the planning stages. The site is the Fred Segal store and parking lot.

The proposal is for a seven-floor (84 feet) building with 250 residential units (40 studios, 126 one bedroom, 54 two bedroom and 30 three bedrooms,) with 39,500 square feet of ground-floor retail/restaurant and a 561 car underground garage. The total square footage is 303,750 square feet. The developer is DK Broadway, LLC/Thomas Properties Group, Inc.

By the way, directly across at 501 Broadway is a proposed six-floor (76 feet) NMS Properties, mixed-use project with 65 apartments (three studio, 21 one bedroom, 24 two bedroom and 7 three bedroom units) and four levels of underground parking with 154 parking spaces.  Add 6,040 square feet of ground-floor commercial space. But, 220 bike racks makes this a good project, hum?  According to the Planning Department case list, this project is being redesigned. A single story retail shop is there now.

There are also three similar developments and two hotels proposed within a couple hundred yards radius of Fifth Street and Broadway. No fear, they won’t generate any traffic, either.

 

 

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