071513 _ CTY bergamotLast Tuesday, the City Council reviewed and approved the Bergamot Area Plan.

We can expect a whole lot of development within the 142.5 acre site and lots more traffic, congestion and pollution because nobody is in the mood to control new development or substantially reduce its negative impacts. The Bergamot Area Plan will set future development standards for this formerly light industrial, eastern, Mid-City neighborhood. Welcome to “Downtown East.”

Because a number of major developments have already been approved or are pending, the plan is almost an afterthought.

• The 377-apartment, East Village (Village Trailer Park site) will have 399,581 square feet of floor space.

• Next to it is the Roberts Business Center with 304,368 square feet of floor space (including 231 apartments) and the Colorado Creative Studios with 191,892 square feet of creative office space. Agensys with 153,000 square feet of office space is nearing completion.

• The pending 766,000-square-foot Bergamot Transit Village Center on the 7.16 acre Paper Mate site is spread over five buildings as high as 86 feet. Also pending is Paseo Nebraska, a primarily residential development with 545 apartments and 356,000 square feet of space.

• Santa Monica College’s new Entertainment and Technology Building will have 63,000 square feet of space and the New Roads School addition will have 116,000 square feet of space.

That’s a total of 2,351,406 square feet of new space or about 23,000 new car trips per weekday — a far cry from the “700 less car trips” crapola that City Hall had been trying to feed us. Two dozen West Los Angeles and Santa Monica intersections alone will be severely impacted by the additional traffic.

You can bet your Prius that congestion will get much worse despite all the bicycle and pedestrian amenities, electric vehicle charging stations and transportation demand management programs presented.

Housing is the deal breaker in the plan. City bureaucrats still cling to the false notion that people who move here will work locally for their entire careers and never drive. Fat chance. The Land Use and Circulation Element (LUCE) called for 1,300 housing units by 2030, yet there are already 1,500 housing units in the pipeline as of 2013.

We’ve all been sold out for an unspecified number of “affordable” apartments — as if a handful of low-income rental units justify the nightmares that this deeply-flawed plan will bring. Making things worse, the council has decreed that additional height and density bonuses will accrue when extra low-income rental units are included in Bergamot area developments

The next evening, the Planning Commission reviewed the largest project proposed for the area — the Bergamot Transit Village Center (BVTC). This is a 750,000-square-foot, mixed-use development from Houston, Texas mega-developer Hines, Corp.

When it was introduced a few years ago, someone referred to it as a “bunch of packing crates that the Water Garden came in.” It still is. In this revised version, Hines has turned a couple hundred thousand square feet of projected office space into apartments — including 75 affordable units — to grease the skids for approval.

This turkey consists of 471 rental units, 27 artist work/live units, up to 374,423 square feet of creative office space, and nearly 30,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space. Open green space is in short supply and new roadways mean two new traffic lights on Olympic Boulevard to further jam traffic.

Questions about the number of employees, density, parking, traffic effects and real community benefits were given little concern. There’s only one thing that matters to the decision makers: “How much low-income housing?”

It takes precedent over traffic, crowding, and our quality of life and provides no neighborhood benefits, but it sure brings in a lot more voters (renters) to keep the rascals in power. That’s why obvious problems are ignored while we’re being promised that everything is “going to be peachy-keen.”

The Planning Commission will continue discussing the BTVC on Sept. 18


Still robbing Peter to pay Paul


Just when you thought that the school funding controversy was over, comes this letter to the Malibu Times (Sept. 12) from Santa Monica-Malibu PTA Council past Secretary Diane C. Hines. She wrote that beginning with the 2014-15 fiscal year, “All monies, earned by local PTAs through direct fundraising will be turned over to the Santa Monica-Malibu Education Foundation (EF) to be distributed as they see fit.”

“They” is the school board, the EF Board of Directors and the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District superintendent who are charged with creating, “an ‘equitable’ distribution of those monies to achieve what they view as ‘fairness’ among all the district schools.” Currently, only 15 percent of donations are put into an equity fund.

She asks, “Why would any parent write a check for any amount and have absolutely no assurance that his (her) child’s school will ever benefit from it?” After predicting that the EF “expects to raise $4 million annually in this manner,” Hines charges that the EF hasn’t revealed any details as to “what type of programs they will deem worthy to fund …” Or, where.

I’ve written about this numerous times. It’s a stupid policy that takes donor money and spends it where the bureaucrats want and not where the donor wants. It is socialism at its worst and risks the goodwill and generosity of parents and friends of our schools.

However, I’m pleased to note that the EF has become more aggressive — and successful — about soliciting funds from local companies, foundations and other sources.




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

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