Editor's Note: This is an Op-Ed submission from Santa Monica Mayor Pro Tem Terry O'Day and Santa Monica councilwoman Gleam Davis.
This weekend many of you saw petitioners asking for a referendum on
our City Council decision regarding the former Papermate factory, now
owned by Hines.
Like many decisions affecting our future, it has
generated a broad community discussion. In fact, the discussion about this site took place over eight years.
The council recently conferred the rights to redevelop the property,
which is currently unoccupied. In this city, unoccupied buildings do
not stay that way for long, so not developing the
property is not the question before us.
The property is a large part of our eastside and Olympic corridor.
Its 7 acres extend from Stewart to 26th Street along Olympic Boulevard.
A 206,000 square foot former factory occupies the land. Next time you
have a chance, take a
look at the size of this building and the way it bisects our
neighborhoods and cuts off circulation.
The property is what planning
experts call a “superblock.” Such blocks disrupt the normal grid of our
streets, creating traffic as people circulate around
This one in particular has no sidewalks or pedestrian
cut-throughs, making it particularly dangerous for bikes, pedestrians
and children who travel around it. It has been abandoned for years, so
although it disrupts our traffic, it does not generate
any traffic of its own today and has not for some time.
Hines Company owns the property today, and without any approval from
the City Council has the right to renovate the existing building, add to
its size, and reoccupy with office space up to roughly 310,000 square
For context, the
Water Garden and Colorado Center offices in the neighborhood have over 2
million square feet. They would be required to make only the smallest
of pedestrian improvements and few traffic control measures. The
environmental studies we conducted on the site
found that thousands of trips per day would be generated by
Our City Council and Planning Commission considered this situation
and with the input of thousands of residents over eight years developed
alternative plans for the area, referred to as the LUCE (Land Use and
Circulation Element) and
Bergamot Area Plan.
We negotiated for six years with the owners of the
property to create something that would serve our community better and
limit the traffic that would come from expanding and reoccupying the
The result is still a large development. Any 7-acre site is bound to
be. What would be added to the project is about 60,000 square feet of
commercial space, almost 500 units of housing, including for seniors and
– roughly 20% affordable in total – and artist live-work lofts for this
arts district. Our community has an imbalance of jobs and housing,
which fuels the traffic problems in this area. Most everyone agrees
that adding housing on this property is a wise
In exchange for adding mostly housing, our negotiations produced
important benefits in circulation and traffic control that we would not
get in reoccupation.
First, the superblock is broken and the grid is
restored. The property owner
grants the rights for three new streets and a pedestrian path through
the site plus 2 acres of open space. Imagine granting a portion of your
property to the city for the public to pass through – this is no small
concession in itself – but there is more.
Second, major additional traffic improvements are required for the
site, totaling over $4.7 million, and connecting the property to our new
light rail station, the Bergamot Arts Center, and office and housing to
The City Council also negotiated the most stringent traffic caps in
any project in the city’s history through a unique mechanism that has
not been used anywhere else in the region to our knowledge. The
property must have a transportation
demand management program that limits the trips in-and-out of the
If it exceeds the projected trip volumes, it must pay a penalty
to the city per excess trip. The result is 12% fewer peak-period
outbound trips (the notorious afternoon weekdays on Olympic)
from the whole project than the reoccupied site would produce.
The approved project is also 25% less square feet than allowed under
our unanimously-approved general plan, and then there are more
The City Council negotiated $11 million for child care
programs throughout the city, $3 million
in public art, $1.4 million for a bike sharing program, and $2 million
for parks, including one that buffers the Expo Line maintenance yard –
an important improvement for the neighborhood.
Our City Council approved the project because the question before us
is not whether to develop the site or not. Rather it is whether we want
to add housing, break up the superblock and create safe, walkable
streets next to the new train
station versus reoccupy a giant building. The question before our City
Council was clear to us: we voted for less traffic, improved pedestrian
safety, housing, parks and open space, and child care funding.
But the petition before our community today sets up a starker
question. Overturning the City Council decision would send a clear
message to Hines – reoccupy and expand the existing building.
support our community democratically
weighing in on this significant change to our eastside, as we have over
eight years of community meetings, studies, and commission and council
A successful referendum, however, would unwind the
negotiated benefits and bring us more traffic. That is now the question before us.
Mayor Pro Tem Terry O'Day
Councilmember Gleam Davis
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