Crossroads School may soon be adding new classrooms as
part of a proposed science learning center, but Planning Commissioners hoped
the Development Agreement (DA) that would make the upgraded high school a
reality would be part of an evolving standard requiring certain environmental
concessions from developers who want to build in Santa Monica.
Commissioners voted unanimously May 1 to recommend a
science learning center at Crossroads, a project that, according to City staff,
would be three stories high and feature 12 classrooms inside.
However, more important than the recommendation was what
was behind the recommendation: Commissioners hoped developers would erect
structures that were LEED Platinum certified. Oftentimes developments are
commended for earning LEED Silver or Gold status.
Planning Commissioners were also keen on holding
developers accountable for including minimum standards for solar amenities and
average vehicle ridership (AVR).
Commissioner Richard McKinnon said the project earning a
LEED Platinum certification was highly desirable. However, his request was met
with some resistance when it was pointed out the developer hoped to focus more
on creating optimal classrooms instead of dedicating resources to placing solar
panels on the roof (as opposed to placing them on the side of the building as
McKinnon also asked the Crossroads team about how the new
project could help minimize traffic impacts.
Members of the Crossroads team said they anticipate the
arrival of the Expo Line, which will have one stop reasonably close to the
middle/high school campus and another stop pretty close to the elementary
school, would help in limiting traffic in and around the school’s two campuses.
Crossroads also hopes to meet an AVR goal of 1.6 persons
per vehicle. McKinnon pressed the Crossroads team as to why the commission
should not push that number to be higher. A big issue for Crossroads is the
wide geographic reach of the school’s students and faculty, many of whom come
from beyond Santa Monica’s borders.
“It seems you are operating off an old model, which is
everyone gets the right to drive from distances to Santa Monica,” McKinnon
said, adding he hoped the school would agree to a set of standards instead of
attempting to make best efforts to address traffic and energy efficiency.
Many of the questions asked were echoed by Commissioner
Amy Nancy Anderson. Both her and Commissioner Jim Ries also asked questions
about the Transportation Demand Management (TDM) plan, asking how the school
would be proactive managing transportation use to and from the school.
As part of the TDM plan, Crossroads officials pointed out
high school students have to pay a fee – estimated between $400 and $500
annually – to park on campus.
Commissioner Jason Parry asked the Crossroads team
whether the new building would explicitly “teach science” to the community at
large instead of limiting the learning to just students inside the new
Parry also asked how many bicycle racks are available at
Crossroads; school officials said there were about 50 spaces for bicycles but
more could be added.
McKinnon campaigned for requiring schools to provide
enough bicycle racks for 15 percent of its student population. Such a
requirement would require Crossroads to provide 200 bicycle racks.
There were only two community benefits negotiated as part
of the new science center at Crossroads: an enhanced Transportation Demand
Management (TDM) plan; and, the school must “provide an undeveloped area 10
feet in width along the southern property line … for the future development and
public use of the Michigan Avenue Greenway bike path.”
As for the building itself, City staff stated it is
proposed to be three stories and 41 feet high and contain about 23,856 square
feet of classroom and support space.
Also proposed as part of the project, according to City
staff: a two-story special projects pavilion to “house interdisciplinary
special project rooms on the ground and second floors and an outdoor gathering
space open to the sky on the third level.”
The new building would be located at 1731 20th Street.
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