The Planning Commission approved plans for a three-story residential and commercial development in Ocean Park Nov. 7 despite nearby residents expressing concerns that the project would create an untenable amount of traffic on Pico Boulevard.
Renderings of the development show two groups of gray buildings with red accents clustered around a courtyard. City staff said the complex’s ground floor cafes, shops and outdoor seating will provide a place for pedestrians to gather and liven up the stretch of Pico between 3rd and Main streets.
But many who live nearby point out that most of the apartment’s tenants won’t just be pedestrians, but also drivers. Developer GRT Portfolio Properties plans to direct cars to the complex’s subterranean parking garage through an alley accessible from Pico, but residents believe drivers should access the garage from 3rd Street.
“I witness the absolute gridlock on Pico every day,” said one neighbor. “I think this project is beautiful and a great idea, but the placing of it is really poorly chosen. I have no idea how they are going to bring in potentially 200 more cars into this area, and it will be incredibly hard to make a turn into the alley.”
Traffic in the alley would also infringe on the privacy of the development’s neighbors, others said.
Commissioner Richard McKinnon said the Commission relied on the recommendations of the Mobility Division in deciding that cars should drive through the alley to the garage. He added GRT would work with Mobility to mitigate the effects traffic in the alley, however.
“It is going to be disruptive to people, but there’s no easy answer to that disruption,” he said. “When Mobility comes and says ‘best case scenario, this is where it’s going to be,’ we’re going to go with that.”
Under the California Environmental Quality Act, the project is exempt from a study that would assess its impacts on traffic in the surrounding area because it is near the Expo Line.
GRT will demolish Bowlmor Lanes, Santa Monica’s bowling alley, to build the complex. It will, however, preserve the red and white “BOWL” sign, which the City of Santa Monica recognizes as a landmark, and incorporate it into the facade. Some members of the public and a couple of commissioners mourned the loss of Bowlmor, saying it functions as an important social gathering place, especially for children.
The complex will contain 97 market-rate units and eight affordable units, and the garage will house 226 parking spaces for cars, 185 for bicycles and six electric vehicle charging stations. About half of the apartments will be one-bedroom units, more than one third will be two- and three-bedroom units and about 16 percent will be studios.