At City Council two weeks ago, Robert “show me the money” Holbrook, Pam “never met a developer I wouldn’t take money from” O’Connor, Terry “development is good, more development is better” O’Day and Richard “I’ve got an Assembly race to pay for” Bloom voted to certify the East Village Development Agreement. Gleam Davis and Kevin McKeown voted against certification. Bobby Shriver was absent.
East Village will eventually be built on the 3.8 acre site of the present Village Trailer Park at 2930 Colorado Ave. Developer Marc Luzatto’s plan is for a massive, 341,290-square-foot mixed use development featuring 161 apartments, 216 condominiums and retail space in three densely packed buildings.
This development was controversial on a number of fronts. The current trailer park is home to some 48 residents, many elderly or disabled, who lived in their own trailers on leased plots of land.
For six years, they fought eviction and turned down numerous offers to move including money for relocation, new trailers in the nearby city-owned Mountain View Mobile Home Park or discounted apartments in East Village when completed.
In obtaining council go ahead, Luzatto reduced his project’s overall size and made additional concessions to the remaining trailer park residents including allowing 10 trailers to stay on the redeveloped site.
East Village still promises to deliver a claustrophobic, ghetto-like housing situation and it’ll cause “significant and unavoidable” traffic impacts at numerous intersections in Santa Monica and West Los Angeles. To make things worse, it’s just one of three side-by-side mega-projects projected for a short, two-block stretch of Colorado Avenue.
The 191,000-plus square foot, mixed-use Colorado Creative Studios is pending on the corner of Stewart Street and Colorado and the 300,000-square-foot Roberts Business Center is set for construction next door. Each of these projects is expected to generate thousands of new daily car trips — further gridlocking traffic in an already heavily congested area.
There’s well over another million square feet of development lurking around the corner. Bergamot Transit Village Center with 766,000 square feet of mostly office space; Paseo Nebraska with over 356,000 square feet of mostly residential space along with a couple of other smaller projects are in the pipeline.
Residents and community activists asked that a decision on East Village be delayed a few months pending the release of a draft Area Plan that would analyze traffic, crowding, transit and other factors on an area-wide basis. They also asked that any votes be deferred a few weeks until after the newly elected council was seated although I doubt the voting outcome would have been any different.
However, City Hall would rather approve all of these developments on a piecemeal basis. It’s irresponsible planning. But this is nothing new. Santa Monica has been synonymous with miserable urban planning for decades.
Tomorrow night another major development is before City Council: Trammel Crow’s mega-development at 3402 Pico Blvd. on property that was the former home of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, the “Grammy” folks.
TC Development, LLC proposes a 197,971-square-foot, four floor complex consisting of 260 residential units, 2,999 square feet of retail space and a 505 vehicle subterranean garage on 2.5 acres. Like Luzatto’s East Village a few blocks away, this development’s mass, scale, density, 47 foot maximum height and potential for unfixable traffic impacts have neighbors up in arms.
On July 18, planning commissioners discussed traffic impacts, pedestrian circulation and health threats to future residents who’d be living literally feet from the I-10 Freeway. As a result, Crow’s proposal before council tomorrow night reflects a reduction of 40 residential units, 2,000 square feet of retail space and 49 parking spots.
But, it’s still too big, too dense and without a single architectural rendering, probably very pedestrian in appearance. And, its community benefits such as already required affordable housing, sustainability and traffic management plans are woefully insufficient.
The problem is that all of the developments mentioned plus a whole slew of pending smaller projects scattered around the city will contribute to congestion, crowding, accelerated use of natural resources and an increasingly unattractive environment for decades to come.
In the words of architect Ron Goldman, “No amount of community benefits can make a poor project a good project, and especially… where the community benefits appear to benefit the developer more than the community.
Nevertheless, my crystal ball shows this development being approved by the City Council pretty much along the same lines as the East Village approval. I see Holbrook, O’Connor, Bloom and O’Day voting for it. Four votes are all that is needed for approval. Then, TC Development can move on to completing an environmental impact report, determination of so-called community benefits and more design work.
It’ll be interesting to see whether Gleam Davis, whose City Council campaigns have been generously supported by developers, will vote for this project as many observers think she will.
Goldman summed it all up perfectly in a recent letter to City Council. “Is this the character and density you envision for the future of Santa Monica? Is quantity more important than quality? Since when are greed and density synonymous with quality of life? Are tax revenues worth architectural and environmental mediocrity? Is the birth of this new neighborhood more beautiful than the one it is replacing? You should realize that one who ignores a crisis is the same one who causes a crisis.”
Bill can be reached at email@example.com.