CITY HALL — A coalition of neighborhood groups from Santa Monica and West Los Angeles made their case Monday for downsizing a proposed development on the east end of town that they say will create more traffic in an area already plagued by gridlock.
Their statements were made during a press conference on City Hall’s lawn that they hope draws the attention of city planners as they continue to work with the developer of the Bergamot Transit Village that is slated to include a mix of residences and creative office space.
“This project is just too big,” said Diana Gordon, co-chair of the Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City. “This needs to be scaled back.”
The major point of contention revolves around what they claim is the lack of an area plan that mitigates the impact on traffic created by the new development, which will consist of five buildings.
The push to voice their concerns is taking place as City Hall works to create a final environmental impact report, a necessary step for the development to move forward.
Representatives from 17 neighborhood groups from across the Westside hand-delivered community comments to city officials, hoping to have their concerns addressed before the project progresses.
The uproar over the development has reached the ear of David Martin, Santa Monica’s director of Planning and Community Development.
The draft report includes a number of alternative plans for what is expected to be 766,094 square feet of office space and residences. Martin said that his department is leaning toward “Alternative Three,” which would increase the total number of residences from 325 to 498, hopefully creating less need for people to commute to the city, thus lessening traffic. The final project would be comprised of three buildings of residences and two for offices.
A major concern of the neighborhood groups was the ratio of housing to commercial space, which led Martin to push developers to increase the number of residences.
“We have been working with the applicant to modify the project,” Martin said. “This is the direction we’re moving forward with.”
That may not be enough to appease community members from both cities.
Jay Handal, the president of the West L.A. Neighborhood Council, said that the shear scope of the project is what irks his members.
“You cannot get a car through our district now,” he said. “[Santa Monica officials] build without thinking about how it impacts the Westside.”
What members of each community group really want is for the overall size of the development to be reduced, not modified.
Mary Marlow, a former chair of the Ocean Park Association, said that the project as is doesn’t incorporate an area and regional traffic mitigation plan, something she feels is necessary if development in that part of the city is going to include other large projects.
She held steadfast to the notion that there isn’t enough housing in Santa Monica to begin with, forcing many of the city’s workers to live elsewhere and commute.
“There just aren’t enough places to live here,” Marlow said. “We’re guaranteed we’ll have more traffic.”
Monday marked the final day the public can comment on the draft EIR before a final one is formalized.
The next step will have city officials reviewing the comments, ultimately including them in the final report.
That’s exactly what those assembled Monday hope leads to enough critical mass to move City Hall to insist on a smaller end product.
“This is one of the most over-developed areas in Los Angeles County,” said Lauren Cole, a member of the South Brentwood Residents’ Association. “We already can’t support the 200,000 commuters who enter Santa Monica every day.”