Current location of the Hines Bergamot Transit village project. (Daniel Archuleta daniela@www.smdp.com)

Monday night is the beginning (and possibly end) of the end for development at the once-controversial former Papermate factory.

Reoccupation of the site is imminent and the Architectural Review Board will hear details of the proposed redesign at itsAug.17 meeting.

Controversy erupted last year over the original plans for the site at 1681 26th St. Hines, a Texas-based developer proposed nearly 375,000 square feet of office space, 427 apartments and $32 million in community benefits. After receiving initial approval in a 4-3 vote, Council reversed their decision after residents gathered enough signatures to take the issue to the ballot.

Hines is no longer involved with the project. Lincoln Property Company, based in Los Angeles, is now acting as the developer and CSHV Pen Factory owns the land.

The currently vacant building includes 196,317 square feet of space. The proposal would include reducing square footage in some parts of the building and splitting it in two. Additional square footage will be added to one building bringing the new total to nearly 204,000 square feet.

Unlike the Hines project, which exceeded City Hall’s land-use limits and therefore needed approval from City Council, the Pen Factory project can proceed relatively uninhibited because it stays within the code. The city cannot ask for community benefits or substantially modify the proposal as the reoccupation conforms to existing zoning laws.

Staff have already evaluated the project for compliance with the zoning code and approved the plan. The project was filed prior to the City’s recent zoning update and was therefore judged against the old code. The ARB will consider elements of exterior design only.

“The addition has already been approved,” said City planner Jing Yeo, who manages the project. “What (the ARB are) looking at is just the building design colors material, it’s a fairly narrow scope of what they look at.”

The ARB is the only public agency scheduled to hear the project. While staff are recommending the item be continued, should the ARB make a decision Monday, the only other public hearing would be a potential appeal of the ARB’s decision to the Planning Commission.

Yeo said staff are particularly concerned with two features of the design. The applicant proposed an exterior paint scheme using 13-15 different colors in a striped pattern.

“Staff has concerns regarding the multitude of colors proposed and the lack of connection between the colors and the architectural concept of the building,” said the staff report. “Staff also has concerns about the even application of colors across all four facades of the buildings and the ability to maintain the vibrancy of the colors in the long-term. Further, staff discussed with the applicant whether other surface treatments, rather than paint, or more strategic applications of paint were considered for the building facades.”

The proposal includes a 12-foot high hedge and chain link fence.

“Staff recommends a hedge or other landscape treatment that would provide the security but also is more compatible with the Bergamot Area Plan’s design objectives for new open space and landscaping to enhance the pedestrian experience and integrate visually with public streets,” said the report.

Office space is at a premium in Santa Monica. While some companies have moved south in recent months, new tenants continue to seek space here. The City currently has about a 17 percent vacancy rate, one of the lowest in the region.

The ARB meets at 7 p.m. in City Hall, 1685 Main St.

editor@www.smdp.com

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