The Coastal Commission has approved a partial demolition and remodel of a long-vacant building in one of the Santa Monica’s most desirable locations.

The properties at 423 – 429 Ocean Ave are across the street from Palisades Park with ocean views. The 16 former apartments have been vacant for a decade and will be converted into 14 condominiums after receiving approval from both the City and Coastal Commission.

The project calls for the remodel of two buildings and replacement of the third.

“The north and south buildings are proposed to be remodeled, including construction of a third story addition and new foundations, would be 33 feet high, and would maintain the original facades,” said the Coastal Commission report. “The east building is proposed to be demolished and only the front façade will be maintained, and the new building would be four stories and 43 feet high. A subterranean parking garage with 28 spaces would be constructed, and three ground-level guest parking spaces onsite would be developed.”

The project was approved by local regulators in 2016/ 2017 as a 12-unit redevelopment. However, the Coastal Commission initially recommended against the project citing the loss of four housing units citing sections of the Coastal Act that require development to be concentrated in existing developed areas able to accommodate it and minimize adverse impacts to coastal resources.

No formal ruling was issued in 2018 as the applicant asked for a delay to revise the proposal. The new version has 14 units with three earmarked as affordable.

“Although the project would still remove two rental units from the housing market, new information received from the City indicates that the proposal is not part of a larger trend of projects that reduce housing density in Santa Monica’s Coastal Zone; therefore, the impacts of losing two housing units at this location is unlikely to have broader cumulative effects on coastal resources,” said Coastal Commission staff. “In addition, the proposed project is consistent with the community character, public access, water quality, and coastal view policies of the Coastal Act.”

In a letter to the Commission, the developer’s representative said the initial threat of a denial didn’t account for the properties vacant nature but said they had managed to increase the number of units without sacrificing the exterior design elements.  

“Years of careful planning and consideration have gone into this Project, both by the applicant and by City staff,” said the letter signed by Fred Gaines of Gaines & Stacey LLP. “Achieving the right balance of Landmark preservation and demolition to address the City’s condominium conversion restrictions proved challenging but the end result is a Project that the community has approved and will take pride in. In addition, the Project will add needed housing and specifically three for-sale affordable housing units to the City’s Coastal Zone.”

The property was landmarked in 2007 but the owner filed for an Economic Hardship exemption.

Coastal Commission approval came with several conditions including submittal of final revised plans for the 14-unit project, utilization of native landscaping, construction practices that protect water quality, acknowledgment that all future improvements be subject to additional Coastal Commission approval and that all Santa Monica conditions be applied to the project.

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