Two developments that have sparked protests from Ocean Park residents are moving forward.
City Council voted Tuesday to deny appeals filed by South Ocean Avenue Residents (SOAR) and UNITE HERE Local 11 against multi-story, mixed-use buildings at 1828 Ocean Ave. and 1921 Ocean Front Walk. The groups claimed the developers will the buildings as an extension of their two adjacent hotels, Shutters on the Beach and Hotel Casa Del Mar. SOAR also contends that the five-story Ocean Avenue building will box in the low-slung homes along Vicente Terrace.
Councilmember Ted Winterer said he understood SOAR’s concerns about the building but the California Housing Accountability Act prevents Council from granting the group’s requests to reduce the height and mass of the project and increase its setbacks from the street. The law, which was passed in 1982, limits the ability of local governments to restrict new development and was tightened in 2017 because of the statewide housing crisis.
“Our hands our pretty much tied on that point,” he said. “We can’t deny the project.”
Winterer introduced a motion to address SOAR’s other issues with the Ocean Avenue project, however. Although the buildings were previously approved with a stipulation that they must not be used as corporate housing, residents believe the developers will run them as de facto hotels and asked Council to require tenants in the buildings to sign one-year leases. The developer told Council Tuesday that the apartments are intended to be permanent residences.
Council moved last December to prohibit month-to-month leases in residential areas because Santa Monica has been grappling with property owners converting rent-controlled apartments into corporate housing.
Council approved Winterer’s motion that the developers must state the criminal and civil penalties for violating the city’s corporate and short-term housing ordinances in the project description and the building’s leases. The motion also requires them to submit an annual report to the City on the nature and terms of the leases and the project’s compliance with Proposition S, a 1990 ballot measure that prohibits building new hotels and large restaurants near the beach.
UNITE HERE’s concerns about the Ocean Front Walk project’s Prop. S compliance drove Council to remove one of the two 2,000 square foot restaurants from the building. Council also put the same conditions on the development that it added on the Ocean Avenue project.
“The people who drafted Prop. S never imagined putting two 2,000 square foot restaurants in one building,” said Councilmember Kevin McKeown.
SOAR has also argued that the project will generate enough traffic to compromise emergency access on the surrounding narrow streets. McKeown agreed that the traffic may be “extreme,” but the environmental impact report on the project concluded that the added cars would not cause safety issues and traffic does not allow Council to override the Housing Accountability Act.
“We’ve endeavored to do as much as we can on parking and the lease terms,” Winterer said.
The group of residents, many of whom have lived in their homes for decades, were not appeased by the conditions.
“We believe there are other alternatives that can meet modifications we’ve asked for without altering the number of units or the project’s size,” said Sally Reinman, who moved to Vicente Terrace in 1988.