The furor over how tall three proposed hotels should be is a paper tiger.

While most folks are watching the sky for hotel towers along Ocean Avenue, the rest of the city is quietly filling up with fat, squat and ugly apartment buildings.

As I’ve written before, the real scary monster in our future is not lurking on top of a high-rise, it’s on Lincoln, Santa Monica, Wilshire, Cloverfield and Pico boulevards, Broadway, Colorado, Nebraska and Arizona avenues, Second, Fourth, Fifth and Sixth streets and more.

The monster is the dozens of four- to eight-floor housing/mixed use private developments featuring anywhere from 32 to 156 apartments — almost all singles, studios or one bedroom apartments — awaiting City Hall’s “OK.”

Add the large projects like the East Village with 377 units, Paseo Nebraska with 545 units, three proposed hotels with at least 167 luxury condominiums and some half-dozen small condo projects citywide with 3 to 19 units each. They’re all lined up for City Hall approval within another year or two. That’s a lot of development.

When these projects and the Village at the Civic Center are completed, that’ll be over 3,300 new apartments and 400 plus condominiums. Plus, there’s another $100 million earmarked for low income/affordable housing City Hall wants to build over the next few years. That’s hundreds of additional apartments.

But, wait, there’s even more. A number of commercial projects including two, six story hotels totaling 279 guest rooms at Fifth and Colorado; a seven floor, 285 room hotel at 710 Wilshire; three large Ocean Avenue hotels; two car repair/dealerships and a nursing facility are also pending. Of course, the Granddaddy of them all — the “Hines Bergamot Transit Village Center” at Olympic Boulevard and 26th Street is still alive.

Two weeks ago, a City Hall committee recommended a developer for city-owned property between Fourth and Fifth streets, along Arizona Avenue. They picked a Metropolitan-Pacific Capital team that proposes a 148 feet high (12 floors), 448,182-square-foot complex with a 225 room boutique hotel, offices, retail stores, public plazas, 1,220 parking places and no housing, However, you can bet the family Prius that the “Plaza at Santa Monica” will have a tidy floor or two of workforce and affordable apartments before it’s approved.

Other proposed mixed-use and residential developments may return with revisions in the coming months such as 3402 Pico Blvd. and the 301 Ocean Ave. luxury condo project now on hold.

And, expect even more projects to be unveiled in the immediate future that will add to the development frenzy. We should be afraid, very afraid, because the monster is growing and it’s extremely hungry.

Almost weekly someone asks me, “What’s that monstrosity going up on Ocean Avenue/across from City Hall?” It’s the $350-million Village at the Civic Center — a city of Santa Monica co-development initiated and approved by the City Council. Mega-developer Related Companies along with city-affiliated, low income, housing provider Community Corporation of Santa Monica (CCSM) are partnered on the project.

Half of the 318 units in this development are luxury condos. The Los Angeles Times reported two weeks ago that “The Seychelle” is a 93 unit luxury condo complex (with a 10-floor tower) and its 65 unit, sister complex is “The Waverly.”

The adjoining 160 affordable rental units “will be subsidized for middle-income tenants chosen through a lottery and a screening process …” adds the L.A. Times. The development — literally a stone’s throw from the beach — will also feature “neighborhood serving” retail stores, gardens and subterranean parking. Like it or not, this is the future of Santa Monica.

Maybe it doesn’t really matter because the more development we have, the better off we are. That’s according to a few of Santa Monica’s most prolific architects and consultants — who have multiple local clients as well as lucrative contracts with City Hall.

They spout the usual “counterintuitive” rhetoric about how abandoning our cars and using bicycles, buses and walking will make it easier to get around.

Coupled with even denser construction this will result in less congestion, a better quality of life, preservation of natural and cultural resources, expanding transportation and housing options, improved health and my favorite, “no net new p.m. rush hour car trips.”

Holy crap, the unicorns are running amuck. Some experts think that “smart planning” overcomes all problems. They point to Vancouver, Canada where despite extensive growth, they claim that car trips have been reduced and life has become more pleasant. However, Santa Monica isn’t anything like Vancouver.

We’re seeing the current push for more and denser development now. But, for nearly 30 years, politicians and planners here have “traffic calmed” thoroughfares, installed planted medians, added a forest of stop signs, shrunk traffic lanes and rigged traffic signals to slow the flow.

They’ve created bike lanes and crosswalks and removed vehicular travel lanes in an effort to make our streets more livable. It’s working real well. Just look at Ocean Park Boulevard. Congestion keeps getting worse and residents are increasingly unhappy.

So, the solution to our woes is to champion greater heights and density, then we’ll solve our traffic problems, become more sustainable and turn into happy woodland nymphs — or, should I say, “beach nymphs.”




Bill can be reached at

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