Parking: A proposal to demolish the structure was paused by a judge. Matthew Hall

A final ruling threw out a lawsuit attempting to block the demolition, which will allow the City of Santa Monica to replace the 60-year-old structure with affordable housing units.

Efforts to demolish Parking Structure 3 (PS3) will soon be moving forward due to a technicality blocking opponents from having their day in court.

“On Friday, January 28, the Superior Court of California issued a final order in the City of Santa Monica’s favor, dismissing a lawsuit put forward by the Santa Monica Bayside Owners Association related to the demolition of Public Parking Structure 3,” according to a statement provided by the City of Santa Monica on Monday, Jan. 31. “With the order, the City can and will proceed with the demolition of the structure at 1318-20 Fourth Street in order to move forward with an affordable housing project that aligns with the City Council directive to prioritize City-owned land for affordable housing to address the affordable housing crisis. A timeline for demolition will be shared broadly with the Santa Monica community later this week.”

Members of the local business community in the area around PS3 — located on 4th Street between Arizona Avenue and Santa Monica Boulevard — began organizing in 2020 to fight the demolition of the 337-space parking structure, which the City of Santa Monica plans to replace with up to 150 affordable housing units. The stakeholders formed the Santa Monica Bayside Owners Association (SMBOA), which filed a lawsuit against the City and California Coastal Commission, arguing the demolition was not properly studied and did not adhere to CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) requirements.

SMBOA won a victory in January 2022 when LA County Superior Court Judge Mitchell Beckloff ruled that the structure could not be torn down until the lawsuit was laid to rest. But that is set to happen much sooner than was expected, due to a filing error on the part of SMBOA’s legal team.

Beckloff issued three tentative rulings during a trial setting conference on Friday, Jan. 28, including a motion to dismiss the case because the complaint had not been filed within the legally required timeline. He later issued a final ruling reinforcing his decision.

According to CEQA (as cited in the City of Santa Monica’s motion to dismiss): “In any action or proceeding alleging noncompliance with this division, the petitioner shall request a hearing within 90 days from the date of filing the petition or shall be subject to dismissal on the court’s own motion or on the motion of any party interested in the action or proceeding.”

The City’s attorneys argued that SMBOA’s legal team did not meet that requirement. Although attorneys representing SMBOA from the law firm Ervin Cohen & Jessup filed an action on June 15, 2021, the request for hearing was not filed until Oct. 5 — 22 days after the 90-day deadline was finished.

“There is no question more than 90 days had elapsed since Petitioner initiated the action when the City brought its motion to dismiss,” Beckloff’s analysis of the argument stated.

Calling the missed deadline an “inadvertent mistake,” SMBOA’s legal team requested relief from having the case thrown out. But, Beckloff wrote, “the evidence (or lack thereof) is entirely inadequate to show excusable inadvertence.”

Representatives from SMBOA’s legal team did not respond to a request for comment by the Daily Press deadline on Monday.

If all goes according to plan, the parking structure will make way for a new housing development that includes supportive housing for formerly homeless individuals.

In January, Santa Monica City Council approved plans to move the project forward using a proposal from EAH, Inc., which submitted plans for either 120 or 150 units at the location, which also includes ground floor retail (developers suggest a grocery store) and underground parking.

SMBOA argued the removal of the parking structure would adversely affect local businesses. John Alle, a local business owner and founding member of SMBOA, did not respond to a request for comment on Monday.

emily@smdp.com