Neighbors fighting a five-story apartment complex planned for 1828 Ocean Avenue have vowed to appeal a Development Review Permit if it clears the Planning Commission this Wednesday, hoping to find sympathy from the City Council. The neighbors along San Vicente Terrace worry the 47-foot building will create a canyon facing the low-slung homes on the opposite side on the narrow, one-way street.

At the moment, a row of ficus trees obscures the property, which serves as a valet parking lot for guests staying at Casa Del Mar. The hoteliers behind the luxury hotel and Shutters on the Beach submitted plans for two mixed-use complexes to add more than a hundred apartments beachside neighborhood.

Both lots used to be owned by the city. The most recent sale came in 2012, when the City sold the lot at 1921 Ocean Front Walk to Edward Thomas Hospitality Companies for $13.5 million. The money from the sale went to the Citywide Housing Trust Fund to pay for affordable housing elsewhere.

The two lots are zoned R4, which allows fairly dense residential development.  The apartments on Ocean Front Walk will have 22 units. The complex on Ocean Avenue will have 83 apartments, including 17 restricted for affordable housing. But the fact ETC manages hotels, rather than apartments, has fueled suspicion in the community that the new construction will not alleviate the local housing crisis.

“We really want neighbors,” said Sally Reinman, who moved into her beachside house on San Vicente Terrace in 1988, “but we think this is thinly veiled, short-term corporate housing and longer vacations. They refuse to promise us any more than 30-day leases. The city says their laws will prevent it but we know that’s not happening.”

Reinman is referring to recent discussions by both the Planning Commission and the City Council that apartments in Santa Monica are increasingly leased to corporations or vacationers staying just over a month, the threshold to get around the city’s strict anti-Airbnb ordinance. City leaders estimate 47 buildings in the downtown area are advertising furnished units for month-to-month tenants.

Reinman’s neighbor, Dayle Kerry, also moved into her 1913 craftsman cottage in 1988, just as developers broke ground on the Shutters hotel. She said the hotel and other nearby developments have drastically changed the neighborhood since she bought her home.  Both women hope any new construction would reflect smaller scale of their side of the street.

“It’s gone from a sleepy little beachside neighborhood and we slowly got boxed in,” Kerry said of the surrounding developments.

A 1990 local law prohibits any new hotels west of Ocean Avenue.  Proposition S also capped the size of new restaurants to 2,000 square feet. Lawyers for the project from Harding, Larmore, Kutcher & Kozal say the developer has heard the concerns and adapted the project. They vow to follow all local laws.

“The setbacks along Pico Boulevard and Vicente Terrace have been increased, which provides a more pedestrian-friendly environment, more opportunities for exterior landscaping, and an opportunity to create “front yards” along Vicente Terrace, favorably reflecting the front yards that exist across (the street) – all at an anticipated loss of future rental revenue due to corresponding floor area reductions in the apartments,” they wrote in a letter to the Planning Commission Friday.

Both the Planning Commission and the City Council is restricted by state law that limits their discretion to reduce the density of housing projects. The law is intended to encourage housing throughout the state.

“This neighborhood mirrors what Santa Monica says it wants to be. We’re so diverse economically, socially demographically but no one’s protecting us,” Reinman said.

The Planning Commission will meet Wednesday, Oct. 3, at 7 p.m. inside City Council Chambers, 1685 Main Street.



Kate Cagle

Senior reporter for the Santa Monica Daily Press

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