Plans for a potential Frank Gehry building overlooking the Pacific Ocean will be before Planning Commission this week.

The project at 101 Santa Monica Blvd. will have a preliminary review on May 2. The project has already had initial reviews by the Architectural Review Board and the Landmarks Commission.

As proposed, the project covers 11 parcels totaling 82,500 square feet along Santa Monica Blvd. and Ocean Ave. It would stand about 130 feet tall (12 stories).

The site currently houses four buildings (three commercial and one mixed-use commercial/residential) and a surface parking lot.

The applicant has pitched a project that includes commercial (24,000 square foot of retail/restaurant), hotel (115 room), museum (40,000 square foot cultural/museum campus) and residential (79 units) uses while retaining two landmarked buildings on the site. There would be a publically accessible rooftop deck and underground parking.

A version of the project has been on the books since early 2013 but it has been substantially revised following adoption of the Downtown Community Plan. The initial project would have been 244 feet tall but has been reduced to 130 feet. Doing so has altered the mass and density of the project resulting in four distinct residential buildings that have been planned around a pedestrian-friendly ground floor. The revisions cut 22 condos from the project leaving the residential component to just rental units.

The project is one of three covered by special zoning rules in the DCP that requires a Development Agreement with specific development standards.

“The DCP identifies three sites in the Downtown that, given parcel size and development standards, could potentially provide significant community benefits for the circulation, open space and cultural facilities that would otherwise not be anticipated from smaller projects,” said the staff report. “These significant enhancements are identified as part of an overall strategy for potential economic and functional improvements to address anticipated future needs in the Downtown.”

Projects covered by the rules must provide community benefits including public open space, affordable housing, mobility/circulation plans, cultural institutions and historic preservation.

Public reaction to the project earlier this year was lukewarm and critics have continued to call it too tall and dense. The ARB was supportive of the proposal and staff said the new version has been improved from its original configuration.

“The proposed site design recognizes the broader urban patterns found in the Downtown District and complements this setting through building siting and orientation; building mass modulation applied – in particular – to the residential buildings; location of uses and program; and preservation and adaptive reuse of two designated City Landmark buildings,” said the staff report.

Planning Commission will meet at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, May 2 in City Hall, 1685 Main St.

Matthew Hall

Matthew Hall has a Masters Degree in International Journalism from City University in London and has been Editor-in-Chief of SMDP since 2014. Prior to working at SMDP he managed a chain of weekly papers...