LOS ANGELES — Despite concerns from residents about increased traffic congestion, the Los Angeles Planning Commission on Thursday unanimously approved the development of Bundy Village and Medical Park, which will run along Santa Monica’s eastern border.
More than 150 people crowded the Los Angeles City Hall hearing to argue their sides on whether or not the project should be approved. The 1.3 million-square-foot complex in question will house medical offices, retail stores and residences, stretching from Bundy Drive to Centinela Avenue along Olympic Boulevard.
The meeting acted as a follow-up hearing to one that took place Feb. 11. During that hearing, it was determined that 30 days would be given during which the developer, Michael Lombardi of Stonebridge Holdings, Inc., was to meet with community groups in order to address their grievances, something which residents said didn’t happen.
Most community members in attendance Thursday were upset by the potential traffic increase from the expected 20,000 additional car trips generated daily by the project. Residents in Santa Monica said several proposed developments near Cloverfield Boulevard and Stewart Street will only add to the congestion seen during rush hour.
Many were not pleased with the outcome of the meetings.
“We feel very much that we’re still in negotiations,” said Xochitl Gonzalez from the West Sawtelle community group. “There are other issues that still need to be addressed.”
While Lombardi did agree to downsize by lowering the height of one building, Gonzalez said a greater downsize is necessary to keep traffic from diverting through her neighborhood. She also said additional considerations need to be made for providing residents with green, open space.
“Our question is, what does it offer our community?” said Gonzalez.
Peter Brown, a representative from Kilroy Realty Corp., which owns a media center across the street from the proposed complex, agreed that downsizing is the only way to cut traffic.
“Their concern is that the traffic will be detrimental to the media district,” Brown said.
Although Lombardi only met with Kilroy officials once, Brown said they fared better than other community groups. Committees in Brentwood, Mar Vista and Westwood, to name a few, are all impacted by Bundy Village, but many did not get their voices heard, they said.
Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl created an ad hoc group, the Bundy Village Community Advisory Committee, to meet with Lombardi and reach a compromise regarding the impacts of the project after the February meeting. However, Lombardi refused to meet the group, furthering frustrations.
While traffic at the 31 Westside intersections affected by the project, 17 of which are in Santa Monica, is the main concern of many of the project’s opponents, other issues were raised as well. Community members argued that the actual plans for what kinds of medical facilities will go in Bundy Village are vague. They said more discussion is needed before the commission could commit to going through with the development.
However, the developer’s lawyer, Dale Goldsmith, said they were unable to finalize plans for the complex without approval, but were in discussions to bring in facilities, such as a diagnostics center, to Bundy Village.
“We think this project will have a number of benefits,” Goldsmith said. Among those benefits, he estimated more than 1,600 jobs will be created by the project, with even more off-site jobs. Additionally, the development opens the opportunity for 2,500 unionized construction jobs, said Stonebridge Holdings, Inc. representative Brandon Stephenson.
Electric workers from Union 111 came out in support of Bundy Village and the jobs it will help generate. During the public comment period, when more than 20 community members spoke, the biggest argument in favor of the development was jobs.
Planning Commission member Sean Burton said that unemployment in Los Angeles is at 12 percent. As health care is a growing industry, he said it made sense to approve a project that would create jobs in that field. He also said he believed the developers made a significant effort to ease traffic concerns.
Commission member Yolanda Orozco agreed.
“You learn to deal with it,” she said. “Progress means that sometimes we are all inconvenienced.”
Stephenson said officials have been meeting with community groups for the past three to four years discussing the project. The $550 million project situates senior living near medical facilities.
The development will now go before the Planning and Land Use Management Committee for approval.