Santa Monica’s industrial heart will get a facelift soon thanks to authorization of work at the City Yards. Construction on a 15-acre industrial site near Bergamot Station will start in June.
Most essential services the City of Santa Monica provides operate out of City Yards, including street maintenance, custodial services and traffic operations. It’s been awaiting a $115 million reboot since 2015 and the Planning Commission granted the project a development review permit on Jan. 16.
Construction on the first phase of the project (Package A) will finish by the end of 2023, said City Architect Rebecca Abano. Two more phases of construction (Packages B and C) will follow. The entire process is expected to take about 10 years.
Package A will entail demolishing 13 existing structures – including a wall with a City-commissioned mural – and constructing six new buildings.
Michigan Avenue along City Yards will look altogether different than it does today. The long, windowless building will be replaced with several buildings interspersed with fenced openings that are meant to provide windows into daily life at the yards. Landscaping, including trees, will be planted along the stretch, which will terminate at a plaza with seating.
Businesses near the site include several art galleries, startups, a theater and a cafe. Gandara Park and the Bergamot Art Center also border the project.
The arts scene in the area extends onto the wall of a long, low City Yards building along Michigan Avenue. A mural depicting industrial workers was commissioned from Venice muralist Eva Cockcroft a few years before her death in 1999. The Planning Commission asked that the piece be thoroughly photographed before it is demolished.
The commission also suggested adding more bike racks and a gender-neutral restroom and shower when it held a public hearing for the project in December.
Commissioner Nina Fresco reiterated the commission’s previous request that the buildings along Michigan Avenue have windows facing the sidewalk and feature art to make the area more pedestrian-friendly. Representatives from the Public Works department said the front of the buildings will be used for storage and moving it will impede workflow.
Fresco voted against granting City Yards a development review permit, as did Commissioner Richard McKinnon, who said he thinks City Yards should be moved to the Santa Monica Airport when it closes in 2028 to free up its current site for development.
“We should build housing near Bergamot Station and build City Yards at the airport when it closes,” McKinnon said. “I have a fundamental objection to moving ahead with this project in this location at this time.”
Commissioner Leslie Lambert said the airport could be a better space for City Yards but noted that the current site would require environmental remediation before developers could build housing on it.
Chair Mario Fonda-Bonardi said while housing near transit is valuable from a planning perspective, it’s also valuable for City Yards to stay closer to the center of town because it houses services that are dispatched throughout the city. He also said people may not want to live in a development built within 500 feet of the freeway.
“The site is best suited for industrial use,” he said.