We in Santa Monica have to contend with overly large and largely inappropriate development projects from opportunistic developers. Then, we’re forced to live with higher and more massive buildings than we’d prefer.

Worse yet, there are more dozens of developments awaiting City Hall approval. If all are OK’d and built, Santa Monica will be a much uglier place and a community plagued with unimaginable traffic congestion, crowding and overtaxed resources.

Two of our largest pending projects are the revamp of the Miramar Hotel at Ocean Avenue and Wilshire Boulevard and the Plaza at Santa Monica on 4th and 5th Streets at Arizona Avenue. Developers of the Plaza at Santa Monica want to build a 12 floor (184 feet tall) mixed-use proposal on city-owned property.

Most residents would prefer a much smaller project on “our” land. Despite the community opposition (which is likely to trigger a ballot referendum to roll back height and density zoning codes citywide), the public has been ignored. Because four-dozen low-income apartments are involved, City Council has been constantly sending “bigger is better” messages to the development team handpicked to realize this project.

But, when it comes to sheer audacity, nothing beats the developers behind the massive new developments in adjacent Los Angeles. The Martin Expo Town Center (METC) planned for a 4.7 acre site at 1201 Olympic Blvd. currently occupied by the Martin Cadillac-GMC dealership is classic.

The proposed development at the busy intersection of Olympic and Bundy Drive has been in the works for four years. If built, it’ll be a triple-structure residential/office complex with 516 condominiums, 67,000 square feet of retail/restaurant space and 200,000 square feet of creative office space. Did I mention a grocery store? Yep, that’s in there, too.

The project’s total square footage is 807,200 – slightly larger than the now dead Bergamot Transit Village proposed for the Paper Mate site here in Santa Monica.

According to LA City planning documents, Building A on the northern half of the Martin site will be seven floors or approximately 90 feet tall. It would feature 17,400 square feet of retail/restaurant use and 16 residential condominiums. Its second floor would include approximately 48 more condominiums and floors 3-7 would provide an additional 255 residential condominiums or apartments.

On the southern portion of the site, construction of a 160-foot tall, 11 story office and retail building (Building C) would potentially include a new 5,000 square foot Martin Cadillac showroom and 12,000 square feet of retail space on the ground floor. Planning includes 14,000 square feet of creative office space on the second floor while the upper nine floors would be devoted to another 186,000 square feet of creative office space, plus amenities like outdoor dining.

A second, 130 foot tall, 12 story building (Building B) would be constructed to the northwest of Building C. It would include 22,600 square feet of ground floor, more retail and commercial square footage and 197 additional residential condominium units.

The METC will also feature a 10,000 square foot landscaped pedestrian plaza with outdoor dining facilities open and accessible to the general public.

The big selling point for the development is that it’s one block away from the Expo Line’s Expo/Bundy station. Developers claim that the number of METC vehicular trips will be mitigated by the project’s walkable proximity to the Expo Light Rail line stop.

According to the Martin Expo Town Center’s website (http://www.martinexpotowncenter.com), the project is a Transit Oriented Development (TOD) or “a residential or commercial area designed to maximize access to public transit.”

Project manager Philip Simmons of the Simmons Group, a land and development management firm and Dan Martin operator of the Martin Auto Group agree that the main community concerns are centered around traffic. Potential solutions to alleviate congestion are being reviewed, such as pre-leasing to only those who are within walking distance of where they work.

“Both the housing and the office are being designed as ‘creative residences and offices’ because the demographics that we’re targeting are the people who work in the immediate area in the creative industries, people who tend to be off-peak travelers,” Simmons asserts. “We are trying to do anything we can do to minimize the traffic impact.” Simmons also says he’s coordinating with Metro to promote transit usage, car and bike share programs.

During the public comment period to the Environmental Impact Report (EIR), the developer will be responding to feedback from the public. The development also has to undergo the four public hearings as required in Los Angeles.

Martin and Simmons have been communicating with the Brentwood Community Council as well as Mar Vista and Westwood neighborhood groups. The West LA Neighborhood Council is the development team’s official neighborhood council. No mention in publicity releases about outreach to the project’s other neighbors – the residents and neighborhood organizations in Santa Monica – because there apparently is none.

Despite talk about reducing traffic impacts, the developer is still planning a massive on-site, subterranean, parking garage. Plans also call for three levels of subterranean parking for about 1,392 vehicles – depending on the condo/apartment mix.

Don’t kid yourself. The METC will have a profound impact on the eastern portion of Santa Monica, especially the mid-cities and Sunset Park neighborhoods, the Olympic and Bundy corridors, the I-10 and nearby freeway on and off ramps.

Can you imagine the nightmare that would result if the Bergamot Transit Village had been built? Welcome to “Gridlock City” where the only “Olympian” things are the traffic jams and air pollution.

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