BROADWAY — When the four-unit apartment project on Broadway at Stanford Street got its permits, Bill Clinton had recently been reelected, Pacific Park had just opened up on the Santa Monica Pier, and the mayor was, well, Pam O’Connor.

Tonight, the Planning Commission will decide whether to grant the building, which has sat half-constructed for 17 years, exemptions from current zoning requirements.

In the early 1990s, Naren Desai, an immigrant from Mumbai, bought the property and its four bungalows. The bungalows were damaged in the 1994 Northridge earthquake. He came to City Hall in 1996 with a request, under the Earthquake Recovery Act, to replace the bungalows with a 2-story building containing four apartments. In February of 1997 he got building permits. To encourage post-earthquake reconstruction, Desai was allowed to build smaller setbacks than zoning allowed.

Things fell apart with the contractor. Lawsuits ensued and construction stopped. Numerous nearby residents have called the Daily Press to complain about the eyesore, which has been boarded up and surrounded by construction fencing since the turn of the millennium.

Desai’s building permit, and the concessions along with it, expired in 2000 but he’s ready to start again.

Given that the complex is half-built, he’s asking that he be allowed those setback exemptions. Additionally, he wants to offer three parking spaces instead of the eight required under current code.

City planners are recommending that the commission approve these exemptions.

“Although a project that conforms to the current development standards is preferable, the proposed project is substantially constructed and based on the site inspection, the majority of the construction is structurally sound and can be retained,” they said in a report to the commission.

Rather than demolish the project, city planners said, allow it to be completed as it was started in the 1990s.

This would include three market-rate apartments, exempt from rent control, and one affordable unit.

Because the apartments are half-built, finding room for eight parking spots would also be difficult.

Desai considered changing the project to senior housing because, under the current zoning code for senior housing, three parking space would be acceptable.

“However,” city planners said, “the project design is not conducive to senior housing which presumes a design that meets the social and physical needs of seniors.”

So, Desai wants a parking variance.

To offset parking demand, he’d include eight secured and covered bike parking spaces. He’d also offer a 50 percent transit subsidy to residents of each of the units.

Desai submitted an economic feasibility study showing that it would cost him about $1 million to complete the project as he’s requested. To complete the project in compliance with current code, it would cost $1.38 million.

A consultant, hired by City Hall, told city planners that the concessions make sense.

“The developer’s requests for incentives/concessions are reasonable and necessary to maintain the current very marginal profitability of the project,” they said. “Given the fact that the structure is built, requiring the exterior walls to be moved to conform to current zoning regulations would render the project financially infeasible.”

The commission is scheduled to discuss the matter at tonight’s meeting, which starts at 7 p.m. at City Hall.

dave@www.smdp.com

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