After the approval of the Hines Bergamot Transit Village (BTV) by the City Council a few weeks ago, many residents are still scratching their heads.
Hines did their job — maximize profits for their investors. Four members of the council, however, failed to do theirs — create a development agreement (DA) that insures the project’s completion, compatibility with the city’s fabric and its ability to mitigate the traffic it will generate.
If built as designed, the new Hines project will have a net area of 765,905 square feet, reach over 85 feet in height and cover nearly three football fields.
At the meeting where the final approval was given, council members seemed resigned to the project as the only viable alternative. Why?
In fact, there are many other options, all of them better than a project that will generate an additional 7,000 new car trips daily in our already congested city and strain our precious water resources at a time of drought.
The alternatives range from lower scale projects with less density to the adaptive reuse of the existing Paper Mate structure. An adaptive re-use project could be completed “in one go” and would bear the closest resemblance to the dynamic “Village” atmosphere envisioned by the (Land Use and Circulation Element). To describe the current BTV project as a “Village” is a joke.
If Hines were to complete only the large office structure (33 percent of the entire project), perhaps Bergamot Transit “travesty” would be a better name for the building that will not include any housing and will generate the most traffic. The fact that this building will also be the most profitable could reduce Hine’s incentive to complete the remainder of the project. After they have their office building, the promised housing and community benefits might never materialize.
In a worst-case scenario, the community would be left looking at a large office building adjacent to a vacant lot and/or abandoned Paper Mate building for up to 10 years … if no one steps up to complete the project. Are there any penalties or clauses that might prevent this from happening? No. In fact, Hines has already written into their agreement with the city that they are under no obligation to build anything further and will suffer no penalties it they decide not to do so.
As it stands, Hines is getting everything upfront while the residents will be left with massive traffic and no assurances that they will ever get additional housing or community benefits. This is not a good deal for the residents of Santa Monica … and they are understandably upset by the city’s enthusiasm for a project that will increase the tax base but could forever change the city in the process.
What are the options for those who still oppose this ill-conceived project? There is only one — pass a referendum by signing a petition that would annul the current agreement or put it to a citywide vote. There are 30 more developers with similar projects in the wings waiting to see if the residents will be successful with this Herculean task. If we fail, the floodgates could open. If we succeed, we will have regained our voice to shape the city’s future.
We urge all residents to find one of the many petitions being circulated and sign it! For more info: Residocracy.org
SMa.r.t. (Santa Monica Architects for a Responsible Tomorrow)
Robert H. Taylor