>> Shoehorned apartments head to Planning Commission

A 10-unit apartment development slated for a steep hillside above Lincoln Boulevard at 2919 Lincoln/802 Ashland Avenue is heading to the Planning Commission, after all.

The development met the code requirements for R2 (low scale) multifamily neighborhoods and was administratively approved about a year ago. It only needed Architectural Review Board (ARB) approval for general appearance including colors, exterior surface materials, signage, landscaping. Rachel Kelley and her husband, whose property backs up to the project, have appealed the ARB approval to the City Planning Commission.

The development consists of four, two story residential structures over a 20 vehicle subterranean garage and features two studio units, four two-bedroom units and four three-bedroom units, one of which is designated for a low-income family. The owner developer is “Corner of Ashland (SM).LLC.” Its address is 6922 Hollywood Boulevard and it’s affiliated with mega-developer the CIM Group according to planning staff.

Because of the low-income housing unit and environmentally forward architectural construction, the development is allowed a higher density than normally permitted and is exempt from California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) review. Neighbors are frustrated because they claim the development doesn’t meet the conditions for CEQA exemption. Other issues concern size and massing as well as traffic and loss of on-street parking.

But, there’s a big problem facing the appeal. Planning Commissioners can only deal with ARB-type issues and that’s cosmetics and appearance. They have no authority to reduce the project’s size, mass or make substantial structural changes.

The development will be built pretty much as planned. This, like other similar, overly-large projects would not come about if they weren’t permitted by zoning codes that give substantial bonuses to developers willing to provide low-income housing and build LEED certified projects. In this case the development is twice as large as would be allowed without all the ideology-driven bonuses.

>> Montana Avenue facing increased height standards

Montana Avenue neighbors are upset over a similar proposal that would allow taller, three story buildings to come to this charming, low-key street.

Planning Commission is discussing potential height increases on Montana Ave. and the commission has voted (in an as yet non-binding way) to allow a three floor height limit when affordable housing is included in new developments on Montana Avenue. The commission would have to take another, formal vote before the proposal becomes official and at that point, City Council would have to approve the measure to amend the LUCE and then approve zoning changes to permit the larger buildings. The ten-block long commercial strip of Montana Avenue is presently mostly single or two floor mom and pop retail stores, eateries and shops without housing.

Is someone kidding me? Montana Avenue is a unique street and a local treasure. Politicians and policy makers alike promised us five years ago when the new LUCE was being created that it would preserve residential neighborhoods. Low density, neighborhood-serving streets like Montana Avenue are an integral part of the community fabric both north and south of Montana. So much for promises because the planning commission has screwed us all, royally. Big question: Will council do the same?

Clueless commissioners have voted to defy and ignore a major LUCE commitment to maintain the scope and integrity of this neighborhood serving, commercial street by adding housing and raising height limits?. To this I say, “No, No, No, No, No!”

It’s an open invitation for massive redevelopment. The extra height will destroy the ambience and character of Montana Avenue turning it into another “cookie-cutter” strip without charm or personality. When (appointed) commissioners and bureaucrats become hung up on social agenda, smart planning goes out the window and we’re all worse off for it.

Once again, we’ve been scammed and sold out by those who are supposed to be looking out for us.

>> Traffic Management plans aren’t working. Surprised?

We should all be used to the tall tales and outright lies that come out of City Hall’s planning department ‚Äì like the “no net new car trips” myth from the now dead Hines Bergamot Transit Village Center.

Many of us have been skeptical about promises that Transportation Demand Management (TDM) programs created to encourage less driving and more use of alternative transit and carpooling by employees and visitors to new Downtown and Bergamot area developments would work and reduce traffic and parking demands.

This headline was on the front page of the January 23, 2015 Santa Monica Daily Press: “Agensys development out of compliance again.” Submitting a workable TDM was a requirement for obtaining permission to build their headquarters at 1800 Stewart St. The TDM was approved, Agensys built their building and moved in two years ago. The TDM was out of compliance last year, too.

But, Agensys is not alone. Two other developments, Providence Saint John’s Health Center and Colorado Center, are failing to hit targets as well, but their agreements aren’t as specific as Agensys this paper reported.

In St. John’s case, reducing traffic is a goal, not a requirement. So, essentially it’s worthless. But requirements to reduce parking impacts around the hospital have also met with questionable results.

Last year, Planning Director David Martin ratified a Saint John’s-financed parking study, which showed the medical facility has 1,375 parking spaces spread out over eight hospital-owned lots and four leased lots. Martin’s approval allowed the hospital to avoid constructing a 430 space parking garage required by its recent hospital expansion.

Just don’t ask the neighbors about the parking problems around St. John’s that City Hall says have been resolved.

I don’t know about you all, but I’m getting really tired of being fed hokum and having my chain yanked.

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

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