WEST LA — Opposition to a proposed 766,000 square-foot development near the intersection of Stewart Street and Olympic Boulevard has long drawn ire from anti-development activists within Santa Monica, and now groups in neighboring West Los Angeles are gathering to voice their concerns.
The West LA Neighborhood Council’s 15-member board voted unanimously Wednesday night to oppose the proposed Bergamot Transit Village project because of the impact that the anticipated traffic created by it would have on already-snarled streets.
It’s expected to be the first of 13 councils throughout the Westside that take a stand on the project in coming weeks, and then go on to a regional council.
Current traffic levels coming out of Santa Monica already cause headaches for West L.A. residents, said Jay Handal, the council’s chairman.
“I own a restaurant in Brentwood Village,” Handal said. “Between the hours of 4 p.m. and 7 p.m., my business is gone.”
In the eyes of Westside residents, the transit village expected to replace the old Papermate building will only make things worse.
The former Papermate building consisted of approximately 206,000 square feet of industrial space.
According to a draft environmental impact report, the proposed project consists of five buildings with a maximum of 495,000 square feet of creative arts spaces and 325 residential units. Each of the proposed buildings would have retail on the ground floor. Each building will be between five and seven stories tall.
That means hundreds or thousands of residents and employees traveling continuously in the area rather than a fixed number of Papermate employees that didn’t contribute as much to Santa Monica’s already congested streets.
It also means revenue generated for the Santa Monica economy that Westside residents will never see, Handal said.
“I think everyone is sick and tired of Santa Monica dumping traffic in our district with no mitigations possible,” Handal said. “The agenda is to build and grow, which is fine if it’s done in a responsible way.”
The development agreement for the project that the City Council approved in August requires traffic management measures on the part of the developer. Those can include incentives to take public transportation, like the incoming Exposition Light Rail line, bicycle facilities and more.
Westside neighbors’ opposition found a ready ally in many Santa Monicans who also oppose the project on the basis of traffic and other impacts.
Their point of contact, as noted on the meeting’s agenda, is Diana Gordon of the group Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City, which has opposed the Papermate project, and many other developments, from the outset.
That group has actively worked against the Papermate project for several years, and is reaching out to other organizations beyond the Santa Monica community for support.
Gordon did not want to comment for this article.
The neighborhoods also have a ready ear in L.A. City Councilmember Bill Rosendahl.
Rosendahl, who has become a vocal advocate for his constituents in the area regarding the Santa Monica Airport, said Friday that he met with City Manager Rod Gould to discuss the Bergamot Village project.
There are already 200,000 cars that go through his district to get to Santa Monica, Rosendahl said, and it’s critical that Santa Monica work to mitigate the traffic that it causes.
“It’s a big deal,” Rosendahl said. “I’m expecting that the city manager will follow through with the conversation we had and do work with neighborhood councils.”
One potential solution could be increased affordable housing, which would keep people from crisscrossing the Santa Monica/West L.A. border ad nauseum.
That’s made more difficult now that the largest source of funding for affordable housing in Santa Monica — the Redevelopment Agency — was dissolved by the California Supreme Court on Feb. 1.
The councils in Brentwood, West L.A., Venice, Mar Vista and the Palisades will be bellwethers of that expected cooperation, Rosendahl said, and he’ll be checking with them to ensure they’ve been invited to participate in the process.