Hines' Development Request Heading To Santa Monica Planning Commission Tonight

Wednesday, 11 Sep 2013, 9:09:00 AM

Parimal M. Rohit

Another rendering of Hines’ proposed project.
Courtesy Of The City Of Santa Monica
Another rendering of Hines’ proposed project.

With the Expo Line slowly taking shape across Santa Monica and the Downtown Specific Plan being crafted by City staff, planning commissioners will be looking at a major component of the Bergamot Area Plan tonight.

Hines 26th Street LLC is seeking a Development Agreement (DA) from City Hall to build a “mixed-use creative office, neighborhood commercial, and residential project” in the heart of Bergamot Station and its Transit Village District.

The project proposes five buildings totaling 766,908 square feet. Current plans calls for 471 residential units and 27 artist work/live studios. A deed-restriction would be placed on 75 units, requiring them to be “affordable.”

Also proposed is 31,000 square feet of open space in the form of a “hardscape plaza area that would be programmed as the core of intensive activity in the project and could be a new community gathering space.”

Three new streets would be created within the proposed project, which City staff believes “are critical in establishing the building blocks for a new neighborhood” and would “lay the foundation for building further connections into the remainder of the district, tying the area into the existing fabric of surrounding neighborhoods.”

“This project is one of the most significant land use decisions the City will make in the Bergamot Transit Village District because of the project’s location across from the future Expo Olympic/26th Street Station and the scale of the project creating opportunity to influence or spearhead implementation of the Bergamot Area Plan,” City staff stated. “The proposed project represents a first step towards fulfilling many of the goals of the LUCE and the vision of the draft Bergamot Area Plan.”

According to City staff, the Hines proposal “includes the most aggressive trip reduction measures that were contemplated in the LUCE.”

The aggressive measures include trip caps and “stiff monetary penalties for non-compliance.”

City staff also hopes the proposed project, if realized, would serve “as a model of sustainability by integrating water and energy-efficient solutions into the site design.”

Proposed community benefits include extending Nebraska Avenue between Stewart and 26th Streets, the addition of two new north-south streets, $2,000,000 to fund the construction of the Expo Buffer Park, two acres of publicly accessible ground floor open space, contributions up to $2,250,000 toward the Bergamot Transportation Management Association (TMA), a local preference housing program, $160,000 for transit stop enhancements for immediately adjacent bus stops, a local hiring program for construction and permanent jobs, and six internship opportunities for Samohi and SMC students.

Another financial contribution of $200,000 per year – up to $11 million – would be required for early childhood education initiatives, while an additional $350,000 ($75,000 initially and another $5,000 annually for the life of the project) would be allocated to the heritage education initiative in underserved neighborhoods “with a priority for Pico Neighborhood.”

While many elements make the project appear to be a great beneficiary to Santa Monica, City staff did have a few concerns about the Hines proposal.

The project “needs further refinement in order to meet the design objectives and guidelines,” City staff stated.

One of City staff’s concerns is the project’s massing and site design on the eastern portion of the project.

“On a broader scale, staff continues to be of the opinion that the project’s design continues to appear as a master-planned campus that lacks cohesive design intent from an architectural design and open space perspective,” City staff stated.

City staff also believes the open spaces serving as “neighborhood parks” are “sporadically located throughout the project” and have “little meaningful relationship to the adjacent buildings, other than their immediate proximity to each other.”

While the project’s design is in compliance with the Bergamot Area Plan’s development standards, City staff believes it “lacks an underlying idea upon which design decisions are based.”

The Planning Commission will review all of these issues and more at its Sept. 11 meeting inside City Hall’s Council Chambers.

City council members are expected to review the draft Bergamot Area Plan one day earlier.

Please follow The Mirror throughout September for more coverage of the Hines proposal and council’s take of the Bergamot Area Plan.

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