The Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City, a citizens’ group, has obtained a document from the City under its Public Records Act request that shows, contrary to previous City claims, that the draft development agreement with Santa Monica Place was not “withdrawn” until after the Coalition posted a copy of the document on its website and reviewed a copy of it in the City’s files.
According to the Coalition, it was only after it had posted a copy of the draft agreement that the City requested a letter from Macerich, stating that the “draft development agreement on file with the City is out of date and no longer relevant.”
Immediately after the City received the April 27 letter from Macerich, it changed its reimagine-santamonicaplace.com website by adding two questions that it described as “frequently asked,” along with answers.
The additional questions and answers, as they appeared on the City website, were:
“Q: Are the City and Macerich currently negotiating a development agreement?
“A: No. Development agreement negotiations will not commence until the City Council has given direction regarding an acceptable project and the terms of negotiation.
“Q: Was there an earlier draft development agreement for the project?’
“A: Macerich proposed a development agreement to the City in November, 2004, but the agreement was withdrawn, along with the original plan, following the Council’s direction to go ‘back [to] the drawing board.’
In fact, Macerich’s April 27 withdrawal letter was sent four days after the Coalition posted the draft development agreement on its website on April 23 and one day after the Coalition inspected it on April 26, pursuant to its Public Records Act request.
Asked about this sequence, Acting Director of the City’s Planning and Community Development Department Andy Agle told the Mirror that, in 2002, in the course of revising the draft Civic Center Specific Plan, the City approached Macerich, the owner of Santa Monica Place, to suggest the possibility of reconfiguring the mall in order to extend the Third Street Promenade to the Civic Center.
According to Agle, Macerich was immediately receptive and began to explore options. In November, 2004, Macerich submitted a proposal that included the draft development agreement. Though Agle had not seen the document that is posted on the SMCLC website, he assumed it was the same document.
In January, Agle said, Planning Department staff submitted the Macerich proposal, including the draft development agreement, to the City Council and asked for direction. On reviewing the proposal, the Council determined it was not appropriate for the site.
“As a result of the January action, Macerich withdrew the application and the draft agreement proposal,” Agle explained.
Though he could not give a specific date as to when the official withdrawal letter was filed, he said, “The Council was very clear that the project as proposed was not to move forward…The Council said to work in partnership with Macerich on the community planning process,” he said.Agle went on to say that the Planning staff is now working on an alternative plan that responds to the ideas that emerged from the community workshops that were held earlier this year. After the City examines the financial and economic impacts of these alternatives, it will solicit further input from the community on the alternative plans.