On Nov. 28, 2011, I wrote (My Write, “Nothing to like about this development”) about a proposed apartment complex at 401 Broadway (at the corner of Fourth Street) in Downtown.

It’s bad enough the proposed project was five floors high and contained 48 tiny, single room apartments, eight one bedroom units and 4,159 square feet of ground floor retail space with 657 square feet of additional outdoor space — presumably for patio dining. All this was shoehorned onto a standard 50 by 150 foot lot now occupied by a car repair business.

The icing on this foul-smelling concoction was the lack of vehicle parking. In fact, folks, there wasn’t one parking space in the plans. However, developer Fourth and Broadway, LLC, thoughtfully included one bicycle parking spot for every unit plus 15 extra retail bicycle spaces. The Land Use and Circulation Element (LUCE) gods were beaming while the rest of us were scratching our heads.  

In Santa Monica, this is considered a progressive development. The developer, their architect, politicians, city planners, consultants, the Planning Commission and City Council all gave this project a big thumbs up.

“It sets a new standard for future sustainable development,” they boasted. Their distorted perception somehow envisions us as a populace that can’t wait to abandon personal vehicles in favor of alternate, less convenient transportation. 

I haven’t done a scientific poll — and I’m guessing that neither has City Hall — but it’s obvious that personal vehicles are overwhelmingly preferred for shopping and getting to and from work or school by 98 percent of the people in Santa Monica — something that city planners and unrealistic politicians ignore while they pursue their own idealistic agendas.

Between allowing insufficient or no onsite parking, removing and narrowing traffic lanes and worst of all, approving deeply flawed developments with the lame excuse that they won’t generate “any net new trips” because they contain bicycle racks and electric vehicle charging stations is pure hokum. 

“Traffic” comes up consistently as our number one complaint which is proof that City Hall is making more bad mistakes than Lindsay Lohan.

Like the leprechauns and unicorns the dreamers believe in, a vehicle-free, 401 Broadway where tenants don’t own or need vehicles is a fantasy and only sets a new standard for unnecessary and incompetent social engineering.

Most likely, the reason there was no parking in the project there was because limited space available for a garage and the developer didn’t want to spend the money to build multiple level underground parking. City Hall visionaries were quick to capitalize on this and declare vehicle-free 401 Broadway as their first utopian planning success.

Once approved (including the usual nonsense such as traffic demand management schemes, street beautification fees, transit subsidies, solar panels and other so-called public benefits), all the developer had to do was line up financing and begin construction. Screeeech. Ka-chunk!

Five months later, the unicorns succumbed when Fourth and Broadway, LLC, filed for a Development Agreement amendment to add at least 50 on-site parking spaces because, without them, financing wasn’t forthcoming. Images of fairies in walking shoes and sprites on bicycles frolicking and cavorting in a Downtown devoid of motor vehicles took a major hit.

Never fear. There are those who still believe in myths — and unicorns. Take Councilman Terry O’Day who told our Ashley Archibald (”’No parking’ model doesn’t sell,” June 27) “Southern California lenders are not always in the vanguard of community design and trends.”

O’Day was an enthusiastic supporter of this mess because it didn’t include the usual parking requirements. He said he “believes it’s a matter of time before financiers fall in line with new thought in city planning.” In my book, that “matter of time” is 20 or 30 years down the road, or way down the bicycle path.

In the real world of dollars and sense (no pun intended), practicality trumps illusion. Lenders and banks deal in reality. O’Day and those who share his unfounded ideas that garage-less developments will attract tenants and won’t generate traffic are peddling pipe dreams. 

You can bet your Schwinn that lenders know prospective tenants will avoid projects without on-site parking and where it’ll cost extra to park off premises. It’s a reality that city planners, bureaucrats and wishful thinkers like O’Day ignore because they’re blinded by delusion.

It may be months before Fourth and Broadway, LLC, returns to City Council for approval of new plans — assuming they can even add a garage and still have a financially viable project.

In the meantime, if O’Day is serious when he says he wants to “encourage walkability” and “reduce traffic impacts,” he needs to wake up, stop hallucinating, and quit supporting every traffic generating, proposed development that crosses his path. Fat chance of that happening.



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



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