Letter To The Editor: Why The Hines Development Should Be Squelched

Saturday, 1 Mar 2014, 12:19:00 PM

Letter To The Editor

Dear Editor,

I am one of the citizens who is asking citizens to sign the petition to squelch the current approved DA by the Santa Monica City Council.

I am a second generation native of this City, a volunteer city commissioner and someone who loves Santa Monica.

While I respect all seven of the Council members who sacrifice so much to serve the city they love, I read the letter posted by two of the Council Members to The Mirror last night and wish to make a few points in response.

It is understood that the property previously known as the Paper Mate Pen Factory is now leased as warehouse facilities.

I'm not a math major however I think that Council Members Gleam Davis and Terry O'Day might have erred in the amount of commercial space to be added. My calculations show about 197,00 more square feet of office in the new project, not 60,000 square feet.

The letter states that this super block disrupts the street grid in that industrial area. It is my belief that it's an industrial site that abuts an industrial site that sits across from the Water Garden plot. It is not an abandoned site. It's just no longer a factory. It does generate a drop of traffic as there is currently a parking lot for over 150 cars that appears to be used daily.

The letter states that the developer could simply renovate the existing building, add to it's mass and reoccupy it with office space without any approval from our city. I believe that is untrue.

The Bergamot Area Plan states that if over 5000 sq feet were added to the existing building then there would have to be approval by the city. This would then cause two pedestrian pass throughs to be added, a Traffic Demand Management plan would be instituted and it's my belief that a change of occupancy to office space would also kick in the above changes.

An adaptive reuse of the existing factory would not only kick in a TDM but would also be en environmentally better use of the property. And, just think of the cool factor of a low rise ex factory now containing high tech and film uses... possibly even a brewery. Ex factories on the east coast are adapted all of the time... usually with great results.

The existing project is now set back a comfortable 20 feet from Olympic Blvd and could contain a great, wide sidewalk.

The new project moves the buildings to within 8 feet of Olympic Blvd. The current low rise factory building is vastly superior to 5 six story buildings rising to within a few feet of Olympic Blvd.

The letter discusses the traffic impacts of reoccupation of the site (which would still trigger a TDM) however reoccupation and modification of the existing building would not generate 7000 daily car trips. At the most it would equal the amount of traffic as Building 1 in the new plan. The next 4 buildings in the Hines proposal would add significantly to the daily misery index at the intersection of 26th Street & Olympic Blvd. That daily Traffic Misery Index (TMI) would extend to 29 other intersections within Venice, Brentwood, WLA and our city and even with the "aggressive" TDM within the plan approved by the City Council 10 of the intersections cannot be mitigated according to the city's report.

Let's move on to height. The approved heights are more than anticipated by the citizens of this city in the Land Use & Circulation Element or the Bergamot Area Plan and the density of the buildings in the project are partially created by the easements granted by the creation of the new streets.

Note that the new streets are owned by Hines, the parking structures run under the streets, the cars parked there exit under the shared street however the City has to maintain the streets, which are the means of entry and exit to the Hines project.

In fact, the new streets are really just the driveway that service Hines parking. The shared street also added to the Floor Area (FAR) that Hines gets to count in their building density. Hence the building of the shared street(s) benefits Hines. They get to add more density and height to the project and have entrances and exits to their parking lots...we get more traffic.

Let's talk about housing. The 498 apartments are great & there is both some low cost and accessible housing however the approximately 950 new residents of our city do not offset the 4 office buildings and do not come close to mitigating the 4000 new workers in the new plan.

We're adding to traffic, not solving our housing/job imbalance and, what's more, they are allowed to build their largest office building first. I believe that's a major mistake of this DA. At the very least, the housing, city park and all parking should have been mandated to be built simultaneously. Note that the DA allows the developer to build only the largest office building and it's associated parking...and then walk away without any penalty. We already know Hines will subdivide their parcels. We have absolutely no guarantee the housing will even be built.

The community benefits of the project are indeed an enticement and are notable. Normally, I would be incredibly pleased with the results of this DA. Contributions to Parks, child care and more are among the benefits however It would seem in this case that the community benefits of this project are outweighed by the detriment to our community.

Most importantly, I feel that many citizens no longer want large developments of this scale in the city they live in. You know, the adaptive re use of the existing PaperMate factory might not be the evil that our honorable council members suggest. Old factories often become great, new projects. There are significant rules in place to govern the repurposing of the existing building and parking. The total impacts would be that of Building 1 of the new project.

To imply that the negative impacts of traffic would be greater than by building the new complex is not only inaccurate and misleading but is simply a scare tactic that citizens are seeing through. I have talked to so many citizens who are horrified by the prospect of this development. And, yes, I have explained that it will sit across the street from the new Expo light rail stop. Of course, if you tell our lovely residents that the train stop has no parking and during our now four hour rush hours (TMI) nobody will be able to drop them off or pick them up from the station due to the massive gridlock that already exists in the area they become quite agitated. As I stated when I spoke before the City Council in any other city this would be a fantastic DA but the negative impacts, I believe, outweigh the benefits of this project.

By signing a referendum petition you are merely telling our City Council, Planning Department and the Hines Group to regroup, to give us a project with a lesser traffic impact, one that fits within our community, and one that we won't look back on 20 years from now and say, "Wow, What A Mistake". Let's not increase our Traffic Misery Index (TMI).

Phil Brock

Santa Monica

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