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The Santa Monica Planning Commission reviewed the first two of a half-dozen new developments coming to Lincoln Boulevard on the eastern edge of the downtown business area last Wednesday.

The new developments will be five or six floor apartment buildings with ground floor retail space. They’ll transform Lincoln between the I-10 Freeway and Broadway from mostly open space (surface parking lots) or single and two floor buildings to a canyon of wall-to-wall, 60 foot structures.

The first two projects to up for development agreement review (because they exceed current building codes for the area) are at the corner of Colorado Avenue and Lincoln Boulevard.

1560 Lincoln Boulevard is a new five-story (60 feet) mixed-use development project consisting of 100 apartments and approximately 11,537 square feet of ground floor retail space and a three-level, 235 vehicle subterranean parking garage. The site is currently a Denny’s Restaurant and surface parking lot. The developer/owner is prolific Santa Monica developer NMS Properties, Inc.

Across the corner is the other new development – 1601 Lincoln Boulevard, formerly Norm’s Coffee Shop and adjacent parking lot. It will become a five-story (57 feet), mixed-use development consisting of 90 apartments, 10,687 square feet of ground floor commercial space and a two-level subterranean garage with 168 spaces. The owner/developer is FSTAR, 1601 LLC.

Four more projects are in the queue for review in the months to come.

Next to 1601 Lincoln is the second of four proposed mixed-users from developer FSTAR in its “Lincoln Collection.” 1613 Lincoln promises to be a five floor (59 feet) apartment building with 56 rental units and 6,953 square feet of ground floor retail space. Three levels of subterranean parking will hold 75 vehicles.

Next door, is a proposed development at 1637 Lincoln, now Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft. It will be a five-floor (59 feet) apartment building with 75 rental units and 7,450 square feet of commercial/ retail space. On-site parking will accommodate 114 vehicles.

The last of the Lincoln Collection is at 1641 Lincoln, currently the site of Aaron Brothers Art and Framing. This proposed development will be a five-floor apartment building (60 feet) with 78 rental units, 7,884 square feet of commercial/retail space and a 104 vehicle garage.

On the west side of Lincoln, a development agreement has been requested for 1660 Lincoln. It is a six floor (60 feet), mixed-user with 77 rental units of which 25 units will be considered “affordable.” 119 vehicles will park in a three-level underground garage.

One of the things that you will notice is that all these developments look alike. Bland facades with balconies, bump-outs or insets to break up the mass. They are achingly repetitive and boring industrial-looking buildings. Most of the apartments – not a condo to be found, by the way – are small and cramped to squeeze every dime of developer profit.

Developers know that nobody in City Hall cares about good architecture, only affordable housing and the more of it, the merrier. The rest of us will have to live in and/or look at these ugly boxes for generations to come.

You can check out these and other projects in more detail and see their renderings on the planning department’s web page. Click “case list” or go directly to


For sale, not cheap


The desirability of commercial real estate is driving up prices. Gone are the days of single floor stores with big, surface parking lots. Developers are rushing in to snap up land especially if it’s walking distance to the coming Expo Light Rail line.

My buddy and real estate agent Robin Waner sent me another agent’s online listing for 1537 Lincoln. “This $4,995,000 property is currently home to a car repair shop next to Bay Cities Deli,” he told me.

It’s an opportunity to purchase a 7,496 square foot commercial lot that can be merged “with an adjacent 12,000 square feet of retail we are selling right next door” (at 1535 Lincoln), states the listing. “Both properties, on the market for the first time in nearly 25 years, this is a rare investment opportunity to own in prime Santa Monica.”

The two properties together total 22,500 square feet of land that represents a “great opportunity for an owner/user or big box retail” or “ideal for potential redevelopment as a secondary option for both properties together,” it continues.

“The property is perfectly situated on one of the most premier blocks of Lincoln Blvd between Broadway and Colorado.” Wanna bet that NMS, Century West, FSTAR or another cash-rich developer seizes these lots for yet one more boring five or six floor, mixed-user?


McKeown’s bone


After voting for an overly large, 148-foot tall, massive mixed-use project downtown on city-owned property at Fourth, Fifth Streets and Arizona Avenue, Councilman Kevin McKeown, threw his constituency a bone.

McKeown’s bone had no meat on it and was old, dried out and tasteless.

He recommended introducing a ballot measure to give residents a vote on any development that would exceed the recommended code height limit (84 feet) for Ocean Avenue. This is like putting a Band-Aid on a broken leg.

If McKeown is serious, he should propose a public vote on any development that would exceed 84 feet in the entire Downtown area starting with City Hall’s own 148 foot tall development on Arizona and Fourth Street.

When City Hall refuses to adhere to its own height guidelines, how does it expect private developers to hold the line?



Bill can be reached at


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