A proposal for another new, big and ugly apartment building was approved by the planning commission Wednesday night. 1601 Lincoln Boulevard, formerly the location of Norm’s Coffee Shop at Lincoln Boulevard and Colorado Avenue, is a 77,608 square foot mixed-use project consisting of two buildings: a four-story (47-feet) and a five-story (57-feet) structure with 90 residential units; 10,617 sq. ft. of ground floor commercial space and an inadequate 168 space, two-level subterranean garage. Fifield Co. Ltd. (FSTART 1601 LLC) is developing. It’s the first of seven similar projects in the pipeline for this short stretch of Lincoln.

Fifield was rewarded with height and density bonuses for a plethora of so-called “Community benefits.” The on-site affordable housing Fifield proposed was double the minimum 10 percent on-site unit requirement (for 50 percent income households) pursuant to the City’s Affordable Housing Production Program, yet the commission voted to add another affordable unit for a total of 19.

Additional community benefits include a monetary contribution of $820,000 towards transportation programs, $595,000 for parks and recreation programs, $175,000 for additional affordable housing in the city, $150,000 for early childhood initiatives, $50,000 towards historic preservation, $80,000 for Big Blue Bus transit improvements and $50,000 for transportation management association programs.

All this is supposed to make up for a massive, mundane two-building development that we’ll be stuck with for decades? Fifield expects to make a profit on this development, so the costs of all those community benefits will be passed on to future tenants making their non-income restricted units more expensive and further out of reach for the middle class.

“Diversity” is a big buzzword in this community. This is another in a growing list of proposed developments that eliminates housing opportunities for middle, and even upper middle-income, households. We’ll never achieve real diversity when we build housing only for the very wealthy and extremely poor. Next step: city council.

City Hall’s new PR machine panned

My column last week about City Hall’s new department of communications generated a lot of response from readers.

My Gmail box has been filled with remarks ranging from “How much money?” to “… This development has been in the works since before the last election, when the former mayor argued that we needed new forms of citizen-city communication to offset the prejudicial interventions of a small minority of aging civic activists.”

My favorite was a comment from a neighborhood leader, and echoed by other emailers, along the lines of, “My guess is that after Cole spent time visiting the community groups and speaking to a bunch of people, he discovered that residents are ANGRY… Cole is strategic. The best way to avoid a resident revolt is to hire a gold-plated PR team and make us pay for it.”

At the YMCA, one gentleman poked a finger at my chest and said that he’d never heard anybody say, “We need more PR [communications] from City Hall. It isn’t on anybody’s priority list … it’ll cost us $1 million a year…”

Residocracy and other politically themed Facebook pages were filled with dozens of gems. Jim Pickrell got straight to the point. “How about six people hired to LISTEN? I’m not sure a shortage of PR is a problem were facing.”

Laura Wilson-Hausle posted. “Another Dept. to pour out propaganda from the City’s pro-development Staff intended to silence and over shadow the voices of residents?” And Rebecca Katz posted, “$10,270 per month for multiple new positions in the SM PR pro-development department? You gotta be [omitted] joking. It’s a joke, right?”

Liz Victoria’s post made me chuckle, “Cole said, “The city needs to embrace new communications technologies; Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, Facebook. I disagree…. It’s a smoke and mirrors non-solution. While I don’t dispute that the city needs more effective, transparent, fool-proof means of collecting resident input and responding to that input, I very much dispute that developing an internally-staffed solution is the way to go… We should probably anticipate that we will probably see the electronic equivalent of the BBB toadstool debacle – ill-conceived apps, worthless Tumblr fluff (OMG, LOL) and lots of digital obfuscation vs. clarification.”

Danielle Charney called it “The Great Wall of Santa Monica…” Reinhard Kargl added, “The Municipal Propaganda Ministry … Employees must be politically vetted to reflect the views of SMRR (Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights), the City Council, Downtown Santa Monica Inc. and the various lobbying groups.”

The only somewhat positive post was from Phil Brock who wrote, “I think Rick Cole has the right idea. He needs to remind our staff forcefully that they work for the stakeholders of our city. Those are not just the people with money and access. They need to work for all of us.”

Have you signed?

Wednesday, Residocracy announced an online e-petition dubbed LUVE (Land Use Voter Empowerment) aimed at mandating voter approval for major aspects of the development process. The LUVE e-petition is designed to gage interest in floating an official ballot measure that would require voter approval for development agreements that exceed zoning codes and developments above the Tier 1 (two to three floors across most of the city and four floors downtown).

Voter approval would also be required for major amendments to planning policy documents such as the General Plan, any area plan or specific plan, the zoning ordinance, official LUCE maps and zoning districts maps.

If enough responders sign the LUVE e-petition, Residocracy will launch an official ballot measure which would become Santa Monica law with a “fifty percent plus one” voter approval.

I signed. How about you? For more information, see www.residocracy.org/E-Petition_-_LUVE.php.

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

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