After years of float-ups, hearings, project designs, public review, and scoping, the Santa Monica City Council will finally have its first reading of a development agreement (DA) on Tuesday night proposing to significantly alter the cityscape at 1681 26th Street.
In anticipation of the issue potentially taking all night to deliberate, the council’s second agenda of 2014 features only one item other than the consent calendar: the proposed Hines DA to bring almost 800,000 square feet of creative, residential, retail, and other mixed-use space to the former Papermate site.
Specifically, Hines 26th Street LLC proposes Bergamot Village, a 765,095-square-foot mixed-use development featuring 473 rental units, 25 artist live/work units, 374,434 square feet of creative office space, 15,500 square feet of restaurant space, and 13,891 square feet of retail space.
According to City staff, 93 of the 473 residential units “would be deed-restricted at affordable and workforce rents, with the intention of creating a vibrant place where residents and employees can live, work, and play.”
“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 implementation of the Bergamot Area Plan,” City staff wrote in its report to council members.
According to City staff, the Hines DA is part of a larger plan to fulfill the goals of the Land Use and Circulation Element (LUCE) and the vision of the Bergamot Area Plan.
Specifically, if the Hines DA is approved by the council and ultimately implemented, a new neighborhood would be created in the Bergamot State area.
“The proposed project … introduces a network of streets and open spaces, both large and small, that are critical in establishing the building blocks for a new neighborhood,” City staff stated in its report. “The location of the three new streets lay the foundation for building further connections into the remainder of the district, tying the area into the existing fabric of surrounding neighborhoods.”
The Hines DA comes to the council Jan. 28 almost two months after the Planning Commission narrowly recommended the project for approval. At the Dec. 4 Planning Commission meeting, four of the seven commissioners voted in favor of moving the project forward with certain qualifications. Specifically, 22 conditions were attached.
Among those conditions included the project reducing its early childhood initiatives contribution from $200,000 annually to $150,000 annually, ensuring five percent of all residential units be fully accessible to the physically disabled, providing community space and workout rooms for residents, marketing residential units to office workers in the area, and making a $2 million contribution directly toward the acquisition of a new open space area – other than Buffer Park – within a one-mile radius of the project site.
Other conditions included abiding by a “Net Zero Energy” requirement, working with agencies such as Westside Center for Independent Living to fill units, maintain an Average Vehicle Ridership target of 2.0 for two years after the Certificate of Occupancy is issued for the first creative office building, clarifying all parking is required to be subterranean, and increasing the project’s Transportation Management Organization (TMO) annual contribution from $15,000 to $150,000, among other requirements.
According to City staff, Hines agreed to most of the suggested conditions except for the reduced early childhood initiative annual contribution and allocation of funds toward an open space area other than Buffer Park.
The proposed project in front of the council next week is a significantly different version of the original DA submitted to City Hall in May 2010. Back then, Hines proposed a 957,521 square foot project featuring 344 residential units, 566,573 square feet of creative office space, and 83,712 square feet of retail space.
After a pair of city council float-ups in 2011, the scale and size of the project dramatically altered. When the project’s Draft Environmental Impact Review was released in January 2012, Hines altered its plans yet again and presented the Planning Commission with the most recent iterations. In September 2013, the Planning Commission began its formal deliberations of the project, with commissioners and the developer engaging in a back-and-forth before a 4-to-3 vote in December 2013 opened the door for the DA to be considered by the city council for final approval.
In the recent weeks leading up to the Jan. 28 council meeting, a handful of local groups have been vocal in either urging council members to oppose the proposed project or asking members of the community to attend Tuesday night’s meeting to express their respective viewpoints in a public forum.
Citing traffic concerns, the Santa Monicans For Renters’ Rights (SMRR) Steering Committee, for example, published an open letter urging the council to vote against the proposed project.
On its website, the Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City stated the proposed Hines project is “massive,” “poorly designed,” and would “bring horrendous traffic” to the Bergamot Village area.
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