Photo: Todd James

Tesla will soon expand its network of Supercharging stations in the Westside with a 62-stall Supercharger station.

In a 5-2 vote Wednesday evening, Santa Monica’s Planning Commission approved a Conditional Use Permit that would allow the operation of a 24-hour, self-service electric vehicle recharging facility complete with solar canopies, restrooms and support equipment split between two project sites on either side of an alley near 14th Court.

The new 62-stall Supercharger station will be located at1401 Santa Monica Boulevard and 1421-1425 Santa Monica Boulevard. The 1401 location, which is currently developed with a small office building that was most recently operated as an auto dealership but is now used for seasonal events, would house 36 vehicle charging stalls, restrooms, and solar canopies while it serves as the facility’s western lot. The site’s eastern lot will house the remaining 26 vehicle charging stalls on a standard surface parking lot. When finished, they will join Tesla’s 10 Level 3 chargers on the roof of the Santa Monica Place Mall parking structure to become the second charging station in the city.

Commissioner Leslie Lambert said early in the meeting she was greatly distressed by the project and its impact on the prospective construction of housing in the local area.

Associate Planner James Combs noted the project won’t provide housing but he did tout the facility as a neighborhood-serving amenity that will provide residents in apartments and others who lack access to a private charger with a means to charge their Tesla vehicle in 30 to 45 minutes.

Noelani Derrickson, who spoke with her colleague Nadir Hossain on behalf of Tesla during the meeting, later highlighted the momentus shifts occurring within the electric vehicle industry.

“We’re moving from early EV adopters, who typically lived in single-family homes and had access to home charging, to more mainstream drivers, who are more commonly renters living in multi-unit dwellings and who are purchasing electric vehicles for the first time because the costs have fallen. For these drivers who have limited or no access to home charging, public fast-charging is crucial,” Derrickson said. And since Santa Monica must build several multi-unit dwelling units in the next several years, this project will help ensure more access to electric vehicles are electric.

“It will also provide localized economic development to the stores and shops in the surrounding areas when the vehicles are parked in charging,” she added before Commissioner Mario Fonda-Bonardi asked why the facility would only be usable by Tesla drivers.

Derrickson said the company has discussed building a charging network with other automakers but the conversations have not yielded anything to date.

Fonda-Bonardi later introduced a motion that sought to require Tesla to provide 26 of the facility’s spaces available to other types of cars and suppliers at a reasonable cost within four years.

“I think that’s a good idea…I think we need something like that, (which) starts to move ahead the whole idea that we want everybody to be able to have an electric car,” he said during Wednesday’s discussion.

However, a majority of commissioners took issue with the motion, comparing it to requiring McDonald’s to sell Burger King hamburgers.

Lambert also shared a belief that it wouldn’t be unenforceable before the amendment failed in a vote that preceded the project’s approval. Commissioners Ellis Raskin and Landres were the no-votes.

Construction on the new supercharger site could begin as soon as summer.