BERGAMOT AREA — Santa Monica’s most influential political party is asking City Council to reject a major development next week.
The Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights (SMRR) steering committee, who’ve backed all but one of the current council members, voted unanimously to oppose the Hines project citing traffic as their main concern.
On Tuesday, council will vote on the proposed 472 apartments, 374,434 square feet of creative office space, 15,500 square feet of restaurants, and 13,891 square feet of retail proposed for a 7-acre plot of land off of 26th Street and Olympic Boulevard.
Santa Monicans are currently struggling with increased development, citing concerns about traffic congestion and the loss of ocean breezes and views of the Pacific. They are trying to find a balance that preserves the low-rise character but also makes room for future need, whether that be housing or commercial space for the next generation of families and workers. There are more than 30 projects in the pipeline that could add nearly 3 million square feet of new residential, office and retail space.
The area around the proposed Hines development is one of the most traffic-heavy in the city, with drivers spending roughly an hour stuck in traffic as they make their way to Interstate 405 after work, SMRR committee members said in their release.
The large amount of office space will exacerbate the traffic problems, SMRR officials said. A housing development, they said, would generate less traffic.
“It is true that the Exposition Light Rail project will contribute to a reduction in current traffic and will mitigate some of the new traffic from this project,” SMRR officials said in a release about the public transit project now under construction in Santa Monica. “But neither we nor our community have confidence that this relief will by itself be enough to make this project’s burden tolerable.”
They asked council to “commit itself to restraint on major developments that generate significant traffic” until the light rail is open and the impacts are clear.
Councilmember Bob Holbrook, whose term expires this year, is the only council member not endorsed by SMRR.
Councilmember Kevin McKeown, whose term also expires this year, agrees with SMRR’s take.
“It is simply too big and generates too many impacts for our community to accept,” he wrote in an e-mail. “Our neighborhood groups, the Santa Monica Democratic Club, and the Santa Monica Coalition for Livable City, among others, feel the same way.”
McKeown was the only member of the council to vote against the project in its initial float-up stage in 2011.
Mayor Pam O’Connor, the other SMRR-backed candidate whose term expires this year, could not be reached for comment by presstime.
The project got the Planning Commission’s approval last month, despite three commissioners’ push to make the proposal more housing-focused.
The commission members — Sue Himmelrich, Richard McKinnon and Chair Jennifer Kennedy — pushed to make the project 20 percent smaller. When that vote failed they pushed to switch one of the five buildings from commercial to residential.
City consultants pointed out to the commission that there is a shortage of office space in Santa Monica. Major companies like Google and Riot Games have left the city by the sea for larger office spaces elsewhere.