A five-story building that has been controversial with some nearby residents will replace a parking lot near Santa Monica Beach.
The building will rise 47 feet on the corner of Ocean Avenue and Pico Boulevard. The concern among neighbors along Vicente Terrace, which also flanks the site, is that the height of the building will dwarf the older single-family homes that line the narrow street. After the Planning Commission first considered the project on Oct. 3, the developer moved the building back from the sidewalk to make it appear shorter.
Some residents weren’t satisfied with that concession, however. At the Commission’s Wednesday meeting, several neighbors asked that the building’s height along Vincente Terrace be reduced to 36 feet by shrinking its square footage about seven percent.
The Commission added a few conditions to its approval of the project, but reducing the size of the building wasn’t one of them. Commissioners agreed that the production of new, high-quality housing – the development will provide 83 new apartments, including 16 affordable ones – took priority over shrinking the building to fit in with surrounding residences.
The Commission included a condition preventing the apartments from being occupied by individuals who will reside on the property for at least 30 consecutive days, but who otherwise intend their occupancy to be temporary or maintain or obtain a permanent place of residence elsewhere.
The condition was added in response to concerns from residents that Edward Thomas Hospitality Companies, which owns the property, would rent out the apartments as short-term corporate housing.
Multiple commissioners said they think the changes the developer and architect made to the building after hearing feedback from residents improved its design and helped integrate it into the character of the neighborhood.
“Adversarial processes aren’t necessarily unhealthy and this has led to a better project, even if it doesn’t completely fit what either party would like,” said Commissioner Shawn Landres. “It was (residents’) pushback that made this a better project, and I want to commend applicant for being as responsive as you have been.”
Several residents, including some who spoke in opposition to the project on Oct. 3, also said they were satisfied with the changes made to the project’s design, particularly the new landscaping along the street.
“Our concerns about the line of sight from the street were addressed,” said Cynthia Rose. “I’m in support of the project. I think it’s beautiful and activates the street.”
Rose added that she feels the project includes too much parking for cars, and not enough for bicycles or shared mobility vehicles. Other residents, however, still have larger concerns.
Sally Reinman, who has been a vocal opponent of the development, said she might appeal the Commission’s approval to City Council.
She proposed making some units smaller to reduce the height or the building, which the Commission rejected on the basis that it would be difficult to find and retain tenants to fill small units. But the smaller unit sizes she proposed were the same size as about ⅓ of the building’s units, she said, a point she believes Commissioners overlooked while considering the alternate proposal she put forth Wednesday.
“We put forward that proposal not to say they had to buy it, but to say it is possible to provide housing and also to protect the neighborhood,” Reinman said.
The Architectural Review Board will be the next body to consider the project.