CITY HALL — Neighbors of Santa Monica Place on Wednesday succeeded in shutting down, at least temporarily, an attempt by Macerich Co. to extend the number of hours people could purchase alcohol on the mall’s patios.
Three residents in the Luxe Apartments on Fourth Street and more than 50 residents of the Promenade Gateway apartment complex on the Third Street Promenade signed a petition presented to planning commissioners in protest of the extension.
Owners of the future Shore Hotel and Downtown Santa Monica, Inc., formerly the Bayside District Corp., on the other hand, gave letters of support for the extension.
If approved, patrons of Santa Monica Place could drink on eight of nine open-air patio spaces of restaurants until 2 a.m. or when the food kitchens closed. As drafted, restaurants could continue to serve alcohol at those hours seven days a week.
Currently, guests must move to the indoor portion of the restaurants at midnight to continue imbibing.
In an effort to be good neighbors, Macerich Co. agreed to remove the ninth patio space, associated with the Xino Chinese restaurant, from the conditional use permit application because of its proximity to apartments.
Doug Roscoe, of Macerich Co., represented the change as a convenience to diners and assured planning commissioners that the mall could keep the noise under control and would work with the community to be a good neighbor.
“We have 24-hour security and a dispatch line that links to a live person,” Roscoe said at the meeting. “We will do everything we can to mitigate the noise.”
City staff signed off on the measure, noting a relative lack of complaints about the businesses and a noise study conducted by the Santa Monica Police Department that showed sound levels well below the allowed decibels.
Not so fast, said Karen Pappas, senior property manager for the Promenade Gateway.
The noise study took place on Thursday, Feb. 17, a relatively cold and damp evening for the city by the sea.
“Take it on Memorial Day weekend or on a night in June,” Pappas said.
Promenade Gateway has 32 residences, occupied by single professionals and small families, Pappas said. Some have asked if they can get out of their leases should the commission approve the extension of hours.
The commissioners had their own concerns with the project.
Only two other restaurants in the district are open as late as 2 a.m., said Vice Chair Gerda Newbold, and none of them may keep those hours all week long.
“I can’t see the need for seven days a week until 2 a.m.,” Newbold said. “Especially on the outside perimeter patios.”
Newbold said she would consider approval that evening if the permit was amended to apply only to Friday and Saturday, and exclude patios open to the Zengo restaurant and The Market, which face out onto streets with residences nearby.
Commissioner Ted Winterer said he was torn between supporting local businesses and his concern for the quality of life of the residents at the Luxe and the Promenade Gateway.
“Give us anything to feel comfortable about simultaneously increasing your business opportunities and revenues and at the same time not create an undo burden on the residents,” Winterer said.
Commissioner Jason Parry wasn’t so positive.
“I don’t think that anything that happens between now and the next time we discuss this, whether it’s a fresh application or not, has a bearing,” Parry said, who said he’d vote “no” on the permit.
Rather than put a stop to the project completely, commissioners voted unanimously to continue the matter for up to 90 days.
A three-month continuance would take the matter into the warm, tourist-friendly month of July. The matter will be resolved before than, Roscoe said on Thursday.
“We plan on working with the residents to show how we operate a controlled environment, and how we can mitigate problems very quickly if they arise,” Roscoe said. “We want to be extremely accommodating, and the best neighbor we can be.”
Although the company hasn’t worked out a firm strategy for community outreach yet, it hopes to prove to residents that it can work with its tenants to control the noise.
“I don’t think all of them understand how contained we are with our own security, and how we really manage the property at that level,” Roscoe said. “We have 1100 hours of paid security a week on three shifts, not to mention an extensive camera system here, and great relationship with Santa Monica city police.”