As I expected, the development agreement and environmental impact report for the Colorado Creative Studios project at 2834 Colorado Ave. (corner of Stewart Street) was approved by the City Council on Tuesday night.
For the record, Mayor Richard Bloom, Mayor Pro Tem Gleam Davis, and Councilmembers Bob Holbrook and Pam O’Connor voted for it. Councilmembers Kevin McKeown, Terry O’Day and Bobby Shriver were absent.
The two-building, four-floor, 191,000-square-foot creative arts office/production complex with a 640 space tri-level subterranean parking garage will serve as headquarters for Lionsgate Entertainment — one of the movie and TV industry’s hippest and fastest growing studios.
Having abandoned any concerns about traffic and other negative consequences, City Hall planners, planning commissioners and council members ignored the cake and are concentrating on the icing: community benefits.
The benefits promised by developer/property owner Jack Walter include open public plazas, lots of trees, an extension of Pennsylvania Avenue to Stewart Street, free community meeting space and cafe, student internships, local hiring, shared parking, employee traffic management measures and enhanced bicycle amenities, among others.
The benefits are supposed to compensate for the negatives that large developments bring to neighborhoods, but they’re really nothing more than feel-good smokescreens. Take wider sidewalks for example; a big buzz point for city planners, but pointless because virtually nobody is begging for wider sidewalks.
Even more ridiculous are suggestions like “more electric car charging outlets” offered by one councilman. Talk about working at cross purposes. Electric or gasoline powered, how is this going to reduce vehicles on the road? It isn’t!
Local hiring and student internships? Also a “big whoop.” Most entertainment industry jobs are controlled by powerful unions or “knowing someone.” Fat chance bucking that system. Local hiring and internships will be, at best, “gofers” for Lionsgate executives.
This is assuming City Hall monitors or enforces these so-called community benefits to begin with. If these benefits are monitored and enforced like other development agreements and conditional use permits that preceded it, Walter will skate home free.
The updated Land Use and Circulation Element (LUCE) of the general plan adopted last year opened the door for a half-dozen, large, new office-based developments in this low key, light industrial zoned, Mid-City neighborhood. All these new projects are inevitable and will likely move forward as their developers envisioned them.
But, there seems to be no desire at City Hall to reign them in, so the sky’s the limit. LUCE’s vision for less traffic and sustainability is a fairy tale because LUCE is a blueprint for more and more development squeezed into a skin tight “green” dress.
The major developments allowed by LUCE will substantially increase congestion, crowding and contribute to additional air pollution and infrastructure demands such as more power, water and waste disposal, no matter how many LEED certifications are handed out.
Never fear, political leaders and their handpicked commissions will make sure they all have plenty of bicycle racks and wide sidewalks. Just ignore the gridlock.
Worst of all, approving each of these large projects separately with little regard for their cumulative effect and without a master development plan for the area is urban planning at its worst. But, it’s obvious this isn’t about good planning. It’s all about money — and expediency.
Residents are still getting the run-around. Even when they mentioned LUCE’s 50 percent housing requirement for new developments at last week’s council meeting, bureaucrats and politicians quickly redefined LUCE claiming the 50/50 requirement “applies to the overall area” not each development, per se.
Since 2008, when developers poured $800,000 into defeating a slow growth ballot measure, residents have taken it in the shorts. Doing developers bidding insures largess for politicians’ war chests.
In case you haven’t noticed, City Hall has a new mantra: “It’s what we want, screw the residents.” You know something? They’re right. As long as “we” continue to re-elect them, we’re voting to screw ourselves.
Say Yes to Night Out
Just a reminder that Santa Monica’s biggest and “funnest” block party of the year is tomorrow night. National Night Out, sponsored by the Santa Monica Police Department, runs from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on the street at 333 Olympic Dr., adjacent to City Hall. Free parking is in the adjoining Civic Center garage
The event is designed to strengthen partnerships between police and the community as well as raise crime prevention awareness. There’ll be lots of free goodies, food, games and entertainment, too.
This year’s theme is emergency preparedness. You’ll be able to purchase emergency and earthquake preparedness supplies from a variety of purveyors including the (shameless plug) Santa Monica Red Cross. It’s a great opportunity to update your family’s emergency and/or first aid kits and get information about coping with disaster, too.
Best of all are the newly design SMPD Mounted Unit T-shirts for sale. Buy one (or more) of these cool T-shirts and the profits from their sale will help support the equestrian unit. I already have my order in.
Contact Bill Bauer at firstname.lastname@example.org