The Planning Commission has approved a plan to replace a pair of commercial spaces with a mixed use project including 30 residential units.

The project site is two adjoining lots (combined 15,000 SF) located on the eastside of Lincoln Boulevard between Santa Monica Boulevard and Broadway, next to the CVS. The proposed project is for a 32-unit Tier 2 condominium housing project within a five-story, 50-foot high mixed-use building.

The Commission action this week created a subdivision map that parceled out the airspace above the property allowing the individual units to be sold as condominium units. Design details of the project were not up for discussion but officials spent time debating the ethics of the project’s affordability proposal.

Of the 30 units, six are set aside for residents of varying income scales. One unit is reserved for residents making 30 percent of average income, one unit for 50 percent, one for 80 percent and three units for moderate income households.

All the project units are proposed for sale as opposed to rental and the potential sale of units to low-income households raised questions for some commissioners.

“I want to get this straight. So, all the affordable units in this project are for sale right? That is, that’s lunacy. I mean people in the extremely low income category, they will be lucky they can afford the home owner fees,” said Commissioner Leslie Lambert. “I think we’re inviting these people to disaster.”

Commissioner Shawn Landres asked staff to research if City policy puts limitations on the fees associated with condo ownership for low-income buyers.

“I think we should find out because there’s not much point approving housing, that is literally unsalable because the very people who are given an opportunity to buy it cannot then afford to live there,” he said.

Staff said the City does have some controls over additional costs and those would be part of the ongoing development process.

Carl Smith, architect for the project, said the owners have been working toward a home-ownership model since its inception.

“The owner of this project wanted to develop it as a condominium building and so all of the calculations for affordable units and so forth, we followed based on the code of Santa Monica, and from the early sort of start to the project we understood that the city has a mechanism to allow ownership units and control of HOA fees and all of that stuff,” he said. “So we have been moving forward with the assumption that these would be for sale units.”

Commissioner Ellis Raskin questioned the breakdown of units and asked if the developer would be willing to alter the mix with more units assigned to the lower-income categories but Smith said modifications were unlikely at this point. Raskin attempted to alter the mix as part of the approval vote but failed to find support among the other commissioners.

Despite their misgivings, the Commission voted to move the project forward with an understanding that the applicant has the option to pursue sale or rental of the low income units based on their needs.

Matthew Hall has a Masters Degree in International Journalism from City University in London and has been Editor-in-Chief of SMDP since 2014. Prior to working at SMDP he managed a chain of weekly papers...