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

What was once Santa Monica’s most controversial development returned to city regulators this week for a brief, cordial and poorly attended discussion.

Now known as the Pen Factory Project, development at the former Papermate site at 26th and Olympic was hugely controversialjust last year.

The original plans for the site at 1681

26th St. proposed nearly 375,000 square feet of office space, 427 apartments and $32 mil- lion in community benefits. After receiving initial approval in a 4-3 vote, Council reversed their decision after residents gath- ered enough signatures to take the issue to the ballot.

The former developer sold the project and a Los Angeles based company has applied to reoccupy the site.

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. An underground parking lot would be added to accommodate cars.

Reoccupation is within the approved uses for the building and doesn’t require exten- sive city approval. However, the developer is proposing cosmetic changes to the structure that fall under the ARB’s purview.

In stark contrast to former meetings about the site, only one member of the public spoke about the issue, perennial public commenter Jerry Rubin (he liked the current proposal, but also liked the Hines proposal).

Boardmember Therese Kelly questioned how the project would impact the existing Bergamot Area plan. However, like all the present members, her comments were gen- erally favorable. “As an office park, I really like the project,” she said. “I like the idea of this long volume and splitting it up.”

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She said she would like to see the project become more pedestrian friendly.

“I’m supportive of the project, but I think we could have another pass,” she said.

Boardmember Craig Hamilton also ques- tioned the pedestrian impact and said he was troubled by the lack of access via Olympic Boulevard. However, he too was supportive of the project.

“Conceptually, I think it’s interesting what you’re doing given the constraints,” he said.

The applicant had presented a more than 300 page document to the board in advance of the meeting and Boardmember Margaret Griffin asked for more stream- lined documentation to ensure the board and public could actually find relevant information.

ARB Chair Lynn Robb said the project was valuable due to its reuse of the existing building.

“I’m actually really happy this building is being transformed and is an adaptive reuse,” she said. “It’s a benefit to Bergamot area. For some of the things we may have lost for the other project not coming to fruition, we have potentially gained a lot by retaining this building and keeping the scale.”

Staff had expressed concern of the pro- posed color scheme on the outside of the building and planting of a large hedge along Olympic Boulevard. The report asked for the item to be continued to allow more time for discussion and when asked if they wanted a vote this week, or to continue discussions, the developer chose to continue talks with staff and to return to the ARB at a future date for final approval.

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