Hannah Heineman Mirror staff writer Last Wednesday, Santa Monica’s Planning Commission unanimously voted to recommend that the City Council not pursue a Development Agreement (DA) with Pacific Properties to redevelop Santa Monica Studios. Adjacent to New Roads School, the 3.28-acre Santa Monica Studios site has 435 feet of frontage on Olympic Boulevard and approximately 385 feet of frontage on Nebraska Avenue. Some of its property was once part of Dresherville, a kind of artists’ colony, and currently houses a number of small audio and video production and post-production companies. The Pacific Properties proposal includes 240 residential apartment units, of which 56 are live-work spaces. 24 of the units would be designated affordable. In addition, it would feature 5,000 square feet of leasable ground floor commercial space atop a two-level subterranean parking garage for 522 vehicles. According to the City staff report, “the total floor area proposed for the site is approximately 256,891-square feet and the proposed density is approximately 73 dwelling units per acre.” A development agreement between a developer and the City is required when the developer’s proposal includes features that do not fall within the City’s zoning regulations. In order to obtain City approval in such circumstances, the developer must offer significant public benefits. In this case, the City staff report states, “as designed, the project could not be constructed under the existing Light Manufacturing Studio District (LMSD) zoning regulations because residential uses, other than artist studios, are not allowed. In addition, the project exceeds the allowable building height and floor area ratio.” To compensate for these zoning code violations the developer has proposed “the following as public benefits for this project: construction of new sidewalks; providing needed amenities to a local school, contributing money to a City arts fund; and implementing a first-source hiring policy, which is a policy by the developer and its contractors to hire low-income job applicants who reside near the job site.” Commissioner Gwynne Pugh summed up the consensus of the Commission for denying the agreement when he raised concerns about the proposed project’s density. The City’s densest residential zone, R4, has 48.4 units per acre. “This project is proposing 73.2 units per acre.” He went on to say that this project is “presented as a mixed use project and has 5,000 square feet of retail as opposed to 250,000 square feet of residential. This is a residential project with a tiny little pimple on it they are calling retail…. The City is trending towards becoming a high end residential city as development occurs here. It has a lot of offices and high-end retail. This dovetails perfectly in to that type of vision of the City.” He also noted that this project does not comply with the current City concept for the LMSD zone which calls for “a variety of uses, artistic expression, small scale service industries, light industrial and creative uses. It’s exactly contrary to that.” Finally, he referred to the revision of the City’s General Plan land use and circulation elements, saying that it would define future City requirements for the LMSD District, and thus it would be inappropriate to adopt a development agreement in the area now. City staff also recommended that the City not pursue a DA agreement at this time “because the issues the application raises are more appropriately addressed through the City’s comprehensive General Plan land use element and Zoning Ordinance update. This work effort is currently underway and will allow the community to evaluate the appropriate land uses and development standards for the LMSD zoning district rather than considering larger scale redevelopment on a parcel-by-parcel approach.” Earlier in the evening, the Commission approved the necessary documents for the construction of a 27,940 square-foot, four-story mixed-use building with 29 market-rate condominiums, three deed-restricted condominium units for use by low-income seniors, 635 feet of ground floor commercial use and 103 parking spaces on three levels of subterranean parking at 1502 Broadway. Commission members also denied a Conditional Use Permit for 609 Broadway which would have allowed an existing restaurant to add alcohol and wine service as it has insufficient parking.Finally, the Commission approved the documents necessary for the construction of a five-unit multifamily condominium at 1035 19th Street and a two-story, thirty foot, five-unit condominium at 1038 11th Street.
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