Santa Monica Planning Commissioners Continue Fleshing Out Bergamot Plan

Monday, 8 Jul 2013, 9:07:00 AM

Parimal M. Rohit

Perhaps the third time will be a charm. After spending two meetings in June deliberating over the Final Bergamot Area Plan, the Planning Commission returns to the dais Wednesday to make one more pass at the document that proposes to re-zone a chunk of land between Pico Boulevard and the Santa Monica Freeway to be a neighborhood commercial district.

After poring over the proposed Final Bergamot Area Plan at its June 12 and June 19 meetings, the Planning Commission will continue July 10 to make headway in recommending to Council members the proposed re-zoning changes.

An element the commissioners will be discussing: a piece of property on Pico Boulevard zoned as “mixed-use boulevard.”

According to City staff, the applicant – TC Pico Development LLC – states the “mixed-use boulevard” designation is inconsistent with the surrounding area’s designation as “mixed-use boulevard – low” per the Land Use and Circulation Element (LUCE).

The change in zoning – considered outdated by a land use law firm representing the applicant seeking the change – would allow for a surface commercial parking lot to be built.

The commercial parking lot, if built, would service a three-story office building already on the property (3402 Pico Boulevard) owned by the applicant.

As a whole, the Final Bergamot Area Plan proposes to be a “plan grounded in history and culture” and would potentially “knit together a community ‘place’ that serves the surrounding residential neighborhoods and the employees of existing businesses.”

The plan also calls for the addition of new streets and bicycle pathways.

According to City staff, once complete, the Bergamot Area would be a transit-oriented creative arts district and Santa Monica’s first new neighborhood of the post-World War 2 era.

“This Plan’s vision seeks to take the area from a monoculture of workplaces to a diverse social, cultural and economic neighborhood. The Plan removes prior prohibitions on housing, restaurants and services that will improve quality of life and opportunity,” City staff stated in a presentation.

The core components of the Bergamot Area Plan include: open space, urban form, and street networks; land use; circulation and mobility; arts and culture; economic sustainability; and, utility infrastructure.

A few revisions have been suggested during the consideration of the Final Bergamot Area Plan, including updates to the housing policy in the area and the addition of content enhancing the operation of mass transit.

Once commissioners complete their discussion of the Final Bergamot Area Plan, they will vote on a resolution to submit the document to the city council for formal approval.

Commissioners previously deliberated the Bergamot Area Plan in February but did not take a formal vote on the document’s draft. In March, the council held a study session to flesh out some of the Plan’s issues.

One concern at the Planning Commission stage was the potentially high level of oversight required to monitor the Plan’s execution. After all, the draft of the Plan is 230 pages in length and covers the development of several projects. Included in the Plan are technical specifications for how high buildings are, how much parking should exist, and the like. Also, Expo Line riders will be making their first Santa Monica stop at Bergamot Station, which is also part of the Plan.

During the council’s discussion of the draft Bergamot Area Plan, concerns were raised about affordable housing, unit sizes, and whether the document is too prescriptive in its design requirements and should be more flexible.

The Bergamot Area Plan has been in development for almost three years, though the light at the end of the tunnel appears to be nearing.

Planning Commissioners will continue deliberating the Bergamot Area Plan at its July 10 meeting. The Mirror will continue following the Plan’s progress through the Planning Commission and City Council stages.

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