Thenew CityCouncil has been sworn in.Ted Winterer and Tony Vazquez joined Terry O’Day and Gleam Davis who were just re-elected. Kevin McKeown, Bob Holbrook and Pam O’Connor are holdovers.

The new council’s first order of business was to decidewho will be mayor.I hoped they would appoint McKeown who’s been on council for 14 years and has never had the honor. Didn’t happen. It went to Pam O’Connor, an 18-year council veteran who’s been mayor three previous times.

Although a number of votes were taken, in the end Holbrook, Vazquez, O’Day and O’Connor voted “Team Pam” and Winterer, Davis and McKeown voted “Team Kevin.” Terry O’Day was named mayor pro tem.

I’m not a fan of O’Connor’s governance and her appointment wasn’t the only poor decision the council made Tuesday night.

Take an agenda itemconcerningnew cinemas at1320 Fourth St. — now Parking Structure No. 3 and slated fordemolition. City Hall geniusesdecidedfour years agothe city-owned site would be ideal for a movie theater multiplex so they requested proposals for new cinemas at the location.

The council was concerned thatadding too many theater seats Downtown would aggravate already serious traffic and parking problems.

With only two bidders submitting proposals for 2,000-plus seat multiplexes, the council then mandated that the exhibitor selected to build and operate the new cinemaswould somehow have to reduce the total number of Downtown theater seatsby roughly 1,000tomitigate traffic issues.

That meant the winning bidder would have tobe willing and able to remove seatsin existing cinemas to achievea net gainof around 1,000 new seats. Unfortunately, this requirement eliminatedthe other bidder, ArchLight Cinemas, from the selection process.

This left local developer Metropolitan PacificCapital, Inc. in partnership with AMC Theaters. BecauseAMC then operated two Downtown complexes with 11 auditoriums, it received City Hall’s nod. AMC quickly announced it would close its Loews Broadway four-plex (with 1.049 seats) when its 12-plex (with2,167 projectedseats) was completed,thus meeting the reduced net new seat requirement.

One big problem: AMC’s lease on its four-plex requires it to stay open and operating. And, if AMC were to not renew its lease or be evicted, the landlord could find another operator and keep the Loews Broadway open “under new management.” Nevertheless, City Hall pressed on with AMC.

This May, AMCwith $1.9 billion in junk bond debt was purchasedbytheDalian Wanda Group, a privately owned Chinese conglomerate for $2.6 billion. Earlier this month, Wanda (AMC) pulled out of its deal with City Hall because it claimed the proposed 12-plex wouldn’t generateenough revenue to justify its construction.

Keep in mind, even with AMC’s virtual monopoly with (now) three existing Downtown multiplexes and ability to charge higher prices, they still claimed the proposed project’s economics were unfavorable.

Tuesday,the City Council approved Director of Housing and Economic DevelopmentAndy Agle’s permissionto find a replacement for AMC. However,it remains to be seen if Agle can findanother exhibitor to make the project “pencil out” financially.

Forget about thelong laundry list of screw-ups and bad decision making. It gets worse. Why is City Hall backing a cinema complex that would shoehorn 10 or 12 movie auditoriums into a crampedsitewhen there’s a huge parcelCity Hall owns and wants to develop directly acrossFourth Street?

This land, bounded byFourth, Fifth StreetandArizona Avenueis ideal for a 10 or 12 auditorium multiplex. It has muchmore space, would permit a less cramped auditorium configuration and could accommodate underground parking for hundreds of cars.

By creating an exciting, newDowntown development with anarts and entertainment theme, for example, movie patrons (especially at night) couldshare parking with the daytime office, restaurant and retail workers.

With freeway traffic exiting atFifth Streetto accessthe site and usingFourth Streetback to the freewayon-ramp, trafficin and out would flow smoother and have less negative impacts, too.

Then, City Hall would be wise to find another developer to build a four or five floor mixed use complex with housing and retail use with subterraneanresident parking whereStructureNo. 3 isnow.

To me, it all makes much more sense from an urban planning point of view. So,I e-mailed my thoughts to a couple of council members prior to Tuesday’smeeting. When it came up, staff responded that it would meanstarting the entire process from scratch after three yearsof work.

But, that’s exactly what City Hall should do because this cinema project has been ill-conceived and badly executed from the get-go. Nevertheless,the council ruled unanimously for Agle and the opportunity to “do it right” this time, has been lost.

I predict this will continue to be one huge botch job because bad planning rules inSanta Monica.

Not all the news was bad, however. The counciltook an unusual step by rescinding their Nov. 27 approval of a development agreement for theEastVillage, a mega-mixed-use project proposed for the present VillageTrailer Parksite at2930 Colorado Ave. The vote doesn’t killEastVillage, ratherit just reopens negotiations withdeveloper Marc Luzzatto.

The main issue is theamount of”affordable” housing at the project, which some deem inadequate. By the way, the vote tore-open negotiations with Luzzatto was Winterer, McKeown, Davisand Vazquez “for.” O’Connor, Holbrook and O’Day opposed reopening negotiations and voted for the developer, as usual.

 

 

 

Bill can be reached at mr.bilbau@gmail.com.

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