More mixed use projects before Planning Commission

Kate Cagle
Daily Press Staff Writer

The City’s largest housing developer will be back in front of the Planning Commission Wednesday, seeking approval for a new 67,000 square foot mixed-use building on Lincoln Boulevard that will result in 100 new apartments and nearly 300 underground parking spaces.

At the moment, 1430 Lincoln Blvd is a boarded up parking lot across from Hi De Ho Comics. The proposal from NMS Properties envisions a five-story building and nearly 6,000 square feet of retail when it is finished.

When the City Council passed the Downtown Community Plan (DCP) this summer, City leaders championed the elimination of minimum parking requirements.

Mayor Ted Winterer wrote an Op-Ed in the Los Angeles Times, advocating the strategy to add density to the area without an “abundance of cheap and easy parking” as a way to increase use of public transit.

Despite the relaxed parking requirements in the DCP, this development is just one of several mixed-use buildings already in the pipeline that will bring hundreds of apartments, parking spaces and cars to already busy Lincoln Boulevard south of Interstate 10.

In this case, NMS is seeking a Development Agreement to build hundreds of parking spaces that are obligated by a private parking easement on nearby Seventh Street. The parking is part of a complicated land swap between NMS and the City to build Fire Station No. 1.

Earlier this month, the commissioners approved a separate Development Agreement with NMS for a six-story, 64-unit mixed-use building on Sixth Street. During the extensive discussion of the plans, some commissioners were wary of signing agreements with NMS’s owner, Neil Shekhter.

In Dec. 2016, a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge found Shekhter and his associates submitted a forged contract and destroyed evidence as part of a civil suit over a joint venture with Boston-based hedge fund AEW.

Shekhter has appealed the ruling. Nonetheless, two commissioners voted against the Sixth Street project over objections toward Shekhter’s alleged behavior.

“I am highly skeptical, to the extent that I do not want to vote for this, about the ownership of this property and the people developing it, Commissioner Richard McKinnon said of the Sixth Street property.

“I feel the City of Santa Monica has been at the behest of a giant shell game moving things around and that the City has been gamed. I do not accept that’s a reasonable thing.”

Commissioner Jennifer Kennedy also voted against the Development Agreement based on her “memory of what this owner-operator has done in the past.”

In the wake of the court case, the City conducted an audit of NMS Properties contracts, agreements and affordable housing requirements set by the City. The developer was found to be in compliance with all 23 buildings they own and manage in Santa Monica.

“They did that so we could go forward with good projects that stand alone on their merits and you could have the confidence that they are living up to their agreements,” NMS’s attorney and lobbyist Dave Rand told the Commissioners earlier this month.

“Nothing about Mr. Shekhter’s private business disputes with an East Coast mega hedge fund that has used unscrupulous tactics of their own, nothing, is relevant to…this project.”

McKinnon’s concerns did not appear to be assuaged by the City audit.

“This is a new moment and the question is whether or not we as a city should be dealing with Mr. Shekhter…going forward,” McKinnon said.

After approval by the Planning Commission, Development Agreements must go before the City Council.
The Planning Commission meets 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 18 at Civic Auditorium, East Wing; 1855 Main Street, Santa Monica.

Kate Cagle

Senior reporter for the Santa Monica Daily Press