DOWNTOWN — The project proposed to replace the one of two Fred Segal buildings on Broadway at Fifth Street got largely positive reviews from the Planning Commission on July 9.
The designs, which propose a 330,344-square-foot mixed-use development project consisting of approximately 39,600 square feet of ground floor commercial area, and 262 residential units across four 84-foot buildings, are in their early stages.
The developers plan to have a grocery store on the ground floor. Parking is addressed through a four-level, 577-space underground garage.
Despite the commission’s enthusiasm for the designs, they had additional suggestions.
Some commissioners wanted to see the density reduced slightly or had inhibitions about building heights. They suggested that the buildings might be too close to each other.
They also asked for more green-space in the project.
One problem for commissioners and the developer is the fact that City Hall is in between planning documents. A Downtown Specific Plan, which will dictate land-uses in the area for years to come, is in its very early stages. Some parts of the project adhere to the current interim planning document but not the draft of the Downtown Specific Plan and vice versa.
“I’m uncomfortable that there’s not consistency with the Downtown Specific Plan,” said Commissioner Amy Anderson, “but it’s a little messed up because we haven’t looked at the Downtown Specific Plan.”
Still, Anderson and many others approved of the framework of the project.
She asked that parking, which, as proposed, is inconsistent with the current code but consistent with the draft of the new code, be studied.
“I like this building,” said Commissioner Sue Himmelrich. “If this building doesn’t comply with the standard then maybe there’s something wrong with the standard because this is much more elegant than any of the buildings that I saw that complied with the standard.”
Commissioner Jim Ries asked the developers to focus their community benefits on traffic reduction for the project, which is very close to the terminus of the incoming Expo Light Rail.
“If part of that is that there’s a circulator that goes around the area from the Expo Line, that to me is the key benefit that any project can provide,” he said. “I mean affordable housing is important but if you talk to community members it’s not nearly as important as trips.”
Developers are currently working with Community Corporation of Santa Monica, the city’s largest affordable housing provider, to iron out details for affordable housing.
Many commissioners expressed a desire for on-site affordable housing, but recognized that there are valuable trade-offs in allowing it to be built off-site.
For Commissioner Richard McKinnon, the size of the proposed project is hard to grapple with.
“The problem is I have a very visceral reaction to the bulk and the massing of this and it’s an inescapable thing that every time I look at it I feel that this is just too big a building on this particular lot,” he said. “I can’t get away from that. I’ve looked at it in relationship to the black building beside it, which I think is a big building, and the other buildings that around it. It’s not a big building if you’re building in New York but it is a big building in the context of Santa Monica.”
Most commissioners lauded the design.
Ultimately, the Planning Commission recommended that City Council enter negotiation with the developer.