Crossroads Development Agreement May Set New Standards For Santa Monica

Friday, 10 May 2013, 9:10:00 AM

Parimal M. Rohit

A rendering of the proposed science learning center at Crossroads School for Arts
Courtesy Of The City Of Santa Monica
A rendering of the proposed science learning center at Crossroads School for Arts

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

currently proposed).

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

development.

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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