(photo by City Of Santa Monica)

CITY HALL — A certain item on the Planning Commission’s Wednesday night calendar has been blowing up the blogosphere and rumor mills for days, but got less than a minute’s worth of consideration from the four commissioners.

Sources say that Apple Inc. plans to demolish a three-story, 33,750-square-foot building on the Third Street Promenade that once held Borders Books and Music, and build in its stead a one-story, 8,084-square-foot-building with a striking curved glass roof.

The front façade will consist entirely of glass panels that will project 5 feet from the stone-paneled side walls, according to the staff report.

Unseen is a 5,210-square-foot basement that will be accessible from the retail floor, but won’t impact the floor area ratio that would otherwise violate the surrounding zoning and require a more thorough review under the city’s interim zoning ordinance.

The new building bears a distinct resemblance to the Apple Store on the West Side of New York City, which also has a curved glass roof. That store opened in 2009.

The final project, staff wrote, will relate “harmoniously to surrounding sites.”

The building needed special permission from the Planning Commission to have more than 50 feet of frontage — it has 75 — and to exceed 7,500 square feet of retail space, but apparently didn’t need to be combed over in detail by commissioners because it was smaller than the existing building and “uncontroversial.”

Instead, the use permit was placed on the consent agenda, and voted on without discussion.

The four who voted — Jim Ries, Jennifer Kennedy, Gerda Newbold and Jason Parry — didn’t, technically, know what company would ultimately inhabit the building.

“We were told it was [to be] quiet,” Ries said Thursday. “It’s not exactly critical to our decision, because our decision relates to code. The exact retail use doesn’t make an impact.”

Commissioner Ted Winterer, who didn’t make it to the meeting in time to vote on the consent agenda, did confirm that the approval was the only reason that the meeting had been called, but that the identity of the company had been withheld from the commissioners.

“No, it has nothing to do with it,” Winterer said.

Even the name of the architect was withheld from the conceptual drawings, lest it be associated with the unnamed company.

The applicant, land use consultant Howard Robinson, with Howard Robinson & Associates, said that his client was not going public with the “ultimate retailer,” but said that the project would be a stunning addition to the promenade.

“The excitement is also that it’s the first new building [on the promenade] in many years,” Harrison said. “It’s going to be demolished and built from the ground up.”

An Apple Inc. spokesperson also refused to confirm the new store, saying that nothing had been announced as of this time.

That said, city officials and real estate insiders told the Daily Press that the store will house Apple.

The-company-that-must-not-be-named has already committed to a traffic reducing transit plan for its employees by offering full-timers $100 per month in transit subsidy and $20 per month for improvements, maintenance and service on bicycles, if they choose to use them.

The basement portion of the store will also have secure bicycle parking for employees.

The application will now go before the Architectural Review Board.

Apple Inc. has more going on than a new mystery building. The company will launch the newest version of the popular iPhone in September to hungry Apple fans.


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