We have to hand it to Planning Director Eileen Fogarty and her staff for holding their ground when it comes to making sure the Hines Bergamot Transit Village project, one of the largest in the city’s history with nearly 1 million square feet of commercial space, housing and retail, complies with the goals of the Land Use and Circulation Element, which will dictate development and traffic patterns for the next 20 years or more. Fogarty did not bow to the pressure and it’s a shame she is retiring. We will miss her leadership.
As for the project, we believe some design changes and the addition of community benefits and retail that truly serves the community, will go a long way in reaching the vision of LUCE. We think the project will be good for Santa Monica, providing much-needed housing, jobs and tax revenue. Yes, it will generate traffic. But if we’re smart about it, we can minimize those impacts. City planners and the council have to make sure that other projects in the area — and there are plenty — comply with strict traffic management plans and there are pedestrian- and bike-friendly connections to Expo Light Rail.
In the end though, the council shares a lot of the responsibility for the increases in traffic congestion. If LUCE would have been completed sooner and the council not dragged its feet, we wouldn’t be seeing projects so out of line with the vision residents have for their city. If LUCE would have been adopted six years ago, developers would have had a better idea of how the future was going to look before making significant investments that call for greater density to make a profit. Council did a lot of things piecemeal, creating confusion when it came to developing a vision for the old industrial part of town.