The redevelopment of the former Paper Mate site is again before the City Council for a public hearing Tuesday night.

Flash back to March 22 … Texas mega-developer Hines presents a "four years in the works" proposal for redevelopment of the former 7.16 acre manufacturing site bounded by 26th Street, Olympic Boulevard and Stewart Street. Hines calls it Bergamot Transit Village Center because it’s directly across Olympic from a proposed Expo Light Rail stop.

Their presentation didn’t go well. The 960,000-square-foot project designed by Gensler was universally panned and ridiculed. The five buildings proposed were described as "packing boxes the (adjacent) Water Garden came in." Hines was ordered back to the drawing board after council members suggested the proposal needed a lot of work.

Flash forward five months … Hines is returning to council having eliminated 190,000 square feet of floor space. Bergamot Transit Village redux is now 20 percent smaller — coming in at 766,000 square feet.

This redux is a substantial improvement over the original proposal, visually. It sure isn’t "mind blowing" or even very exciting. And, some buildings look like a "low-income" housing project.

Hines again proposes creative arts office space, ground floor commercial space, subterranean parking and a mixture of affordable, market rate and workforce housing to occupy up to 40 percent of the project’s total floor space.

The usual amenities — plenty of open space, bicycle right-of-ways and pedestrian connections to and into the site — are offered. The tallest structures are a little shorter than originally planned, now 81 feet high or "six floors" according to the developer.

In addition to an extension of Nebraska Avenue, Hines proposes two, new, full-service, north/south streets from Olympic Boulevard onto the property. These two streets, with signalized intersections, will seriously increase traffic congestion on Olympic and need to be rethought. In fact, the whole project still promises unacceptable new highs in gridlock generating potential.

With a half dozen major developments proposed or under construction in the immediate area east of 26th Street, traffic is still the elephant in the refrigerator. The incoming Expo Light Rail won’t relieve even current levels of traffic, let alone the additional congestion all this and other new developments will add.

City Hall’s “one project at a time” urban planning mindset with visions of spiffy greenery, plazas and bicycle amenities continues to ignore major problems. In the meantime planners and their hired traffic guru Jeffrey Tumlin promise “no net new afternoon rush hour trips” as if they know what they’re talking about.

City Hall to take over Lincoln

City Hall wants to own Lincoln Boulevard from the I-10 Freeway to the city limits. City Hall is asking Caltrans to relinquish its authority and transfer ownership to the City of Santa Monica for local control and operation. Lincoln is currently a “state highway.”

Although staff’s report highlight road repair and improvements promised with City Hall’s takeover, there are other plans in the works that may not sit well with Lincoln businesses and nearby residents.

For example, City Council has already approved bus/bike only lanes on Lincoln for morning and afternoon rush hours. This also means elimination of curbside parking during rush hours in addition to restrictions on vehicles permitted to use these outside lanes.

Additional traffic calming measures such as traffic islands, mid-street planters, additional crosswalks and likely additional traffic signals will be part of the mix.

It’s guaranteed that these "improvements" will further congest traffic on Lincoln and cause frustrated motorists to seek shortcuts and alternate routes by diverting into the bordering residential areas of Sunset Park and Ocean Park.

You’ve been warned.

Apple of their eye

The Santa Monica Planning Commission did something unusual Wednesday night. They approved a significant Third Street Promenade redevelopment project without any public comment or discussion.

The proposed project is an 8,000-square-foot, single-floor, retail store that features a dramatic front facade and vaulted ceiling/roof made entirely of glass. It will replace a building that formerly housed Borders Books and Music.

This appears to be the most exciting piece of architecture proposed here in the last 30 years. It is nothing short of breathtaking. However, I think there were issues overlooked in the commission’s rush to judgment.

There was no public discussion because the project had been placed on the consent calendar. Then, approval came so quickly that Commissioner Ted Winterer, who arrived late, missed the vote.

The four commissioners who voted did so without discussion (relying on the staff report) and without knowing who the architect was or even who it was being built for. It was all a “big secret” even though it was rumored to be Apple Inc. because renderings submitted looked almost identical to Apple’s flagship store in New York City.

Developers take note: The lesson here is come up with a stunning and non-invasive project and it will be embraced and approved faster than you can shout “Yes!”

Bill can be reached at

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