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Development Agreements known as DAs give a lot of latitude to a developer and a city in negotiating a massive project like the Miramar Hotel; a project that will be higher and denser than that neighborhood’s current zoning. There are, however, certain fundamentals for any DA. In exchange for allowing a developer greater profits by building a bigger project, there must be greater community benefits to offset the increased burdens the community will bear should the project move forward.

In negotiating a DA, a city shouldn’t compromise its standards in a way which greatly reduces the quality of life for residents in the surrounding neighborhood. Nor should the City negotiate community benefits that are far less than what the City is entitled to.

Yet sadly, that’s what may be happening with this proposed Miramar project.

This project doesn’t give the commensurate level of community benefits to justify approving its DA as opposed to approving a smaller project under current zoning standards. The 48 units of affordable housing are not nearly enough. It also doesn’t mitigate the known community burdens that will be caused by eliminating the existing Wilshire entrance and adding new entrances on neighboring streets ill-designed to accommodate the increased traffic.

And what about meaningful open space as a community benefit to link the project to the adjacent Palisades Park? No, that open space is restricted as “publicly accessible,” which means it will primarily be for the use of hotel guests and operated as such.

The Miramar project also calls for almost 200,000 square feet of new condo units on the upper floors. These luxury condos represent a give-away of our most precious asset — a world class view of the ocean — by restricting it to the uber rich. And the revenue from these condo sales will largely go to the developer instead of generating hotel bed taxes to the City. Worse, building these high-end condos will accelerate gentrification and the loss of diversity in our community and along Ocean Avenue. With this DA as a precedent, older buildings on Ocean will become prime bait to be torn down and replaced with ultra-luxury housing. What’s at stake here is building a city increasingly for the wealthy and enriching the developer at the expense of our city’s livability.

How did this failure of adequate community benefits and poor planning occur? After all, the developer cites more than a hundred meetings to engage the community on its plans.

But it’s not the number of meetings you hold: It’s what community benefits you subsequently agree to deliver and whether you work to solve the real neighborhood problems the project, as massively designed, creates.

This isn’t just a failure by the developer: It’s a failure of a feckless planning department to negotiate a DA with community benefits that are reasonable given the project’s massive size. Residents are increasingly frustrated with the city’s “how can we help big developers?” attitude while turning a deaf ear to unacceptable environmental burdens for the community.

It’s also not whether the developer is perceived as “community-friendly” — one who has cultivated support for this project by making donations to arts and education foundations and other good causes. These things, while admirable, don’t make up for the failure of the DA to deliver the necessary level of community benefits, or the mitigation of this project’s massive height along Second Street, or its circulation problems.

In a week we’ll see whether our City Council cares about redressing the lack of commensurate community benefits and the unacceptable neighborhood burdens this project will create. Council must not use the pandemic or our economic downturn to run roughshod over neighboring residents, and to approve this give-away to a billionaire hotel owner. If it happens in this neighborhood in can happen in yours. Santa Monica residents will be watching.

Diana Gordon and Victor Fresco are Co-Chairs of the Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City.