March 5, 2024 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

Publisher’s Notebook:

Looking to buy or rent office space in Santa Monica? It is getting awfully pricey. Buildings are selling for over $400 a sq. ft. and rents are upward of $2.75 a sq. ft for general office space. At that rate a local business owner trying to have an owner-occupied building has to be in the gold bullion business and/or if you want to rent you had better be producing a hit movie. These numbers by the way are not reflective of the Promenade district nor our class A commercial buildings where rents are even higher. This can be construed as a good sign with strong demand for property in the area being the driving force in escalating prices. On the other hand, it is hard to attract locally serving businesses and small business owners who want to own their own properties.

The placement of the expanding Santa Monica bus yards downtown still rankles me. Why does the City, in spite of better alternatives, continue to move forward with such a dumb idea? I was looking at property near the yards last week and tried to calculate the worth of that land if developed as something other then a large lube and repair shop. Let’s see, it is between 5th, 6th and 7th streets north of the freeway to Colorado in a prime location smack dab in the middle of downtown Santa Monica. Imagine the mixed-use community village that could be placed there. It would be on a transit corridor, freeway close and walking distance to the Promenade, the beach, the pier, the Y and the library. The value of that property would vault into the hundreds of millions of dollars. We could have more affordable housing opportunities downtown and an ugly industrial complex would be gone.

The airport property with its many open and unused spaces would be an ideal location for a bus yard. There would be the added benefit of not having buses traveling downtown for their nighttime resting spot. Why schlep them through the City every day unless they are transiting people? Makes no sense. Of course there is no one on the council bold enough to take the lead on this as they mostly say, “Oh it is too late, the planning on this is too far along.” With that logic we are stuck with all the dumb old ideas of the past. Our new city manager would be the perfect guy to speak up on this, but his newness on the job and lack of boldness so far makes this unlikely.

Speaking of mixed use, I sure hope the City doesn’t replace the old Fisher Lumber property with anything other then the expansion of Olympic Park. There are a lot of people chomping at the bit to get their egos into that location. They are taking too long to clear the lot, which makes me nervous. Within 10 days they could have the lot cleared and grass planted. Then they could take their usual 10 years (see Virginia Avenue Park) to “plan” the rest of it. Meanwhile people could be playing and we could all be enjoying a little extra open space in the middle of the City.

A little forward movement on the homeless issue transpired this past week. LA County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky announced the forming of a homeless court in Santa Monica. I was told to credit our homeless Czar Ed Edelman with this one. While I am sure he did help, much credit must go to all of the council people working on this issue including Richard Bloom and Kevin McKeown, and especially Bobby Shriver for putting new energy and light onto the subject. Good for them, but let’s hope they don’t stop there as there is a lot more to do. In regards to Edelman’s $400,000 pay to help the homeless, the only way I can justify it is if he brings the region millions, no, hundreds of millions, of dollars in long term funding for homeless shelters, transitional housing, medical care etc. Otherwise our current elected officials should be doing his job.

I see the new shelter taking shape on Cloverfield, as they renovate a building that had been run down and unused for many years, as an improvement. I know the Pico community was not generally in support of that building but I think it is a positive step in helping people without homes. Now…if we can get some movement on the VA property we might be able to make a quantitative difference. Housing first is the key to progress for homeless issues, and with that amount of space and all those buildings every vet in the region should be able to have “three hots and a cot.”

The 415 PCH saga has taken a turn for the worse with some of the neighbors putting the whole project in jeopardy by filing a lawsuit. This is a wealthy group of people who look ready to spend upwards of a million dollars to get their way. The shame of it is it may have been possible to satisfy them without all this legal hassle. Santa Monica’s City Attorney Marsha Moutrie had an opportunity to give the neighbors needed assurance, but hid behind the legal argument that the City could not enter into an agreement with a small group of neighbors. Maybe, but they could have entered into an agreement with the Ahmanson that had those caveats included. There is more then one way to skin a cat, and by doing this the City would have saved face and the neighbors would have had their assurances. Now, tempers are hot, legal fees are being run up and the City may or may not prevail. If the lawsuit lingers too long, Ahmanson may bolt. Since there appear to be no substantive issues dividing the parties, some creative thinking will be necessary to resolve this. If Moutrie can’t find a way we all lose. I am already looking forward to taking my son there, so let’s hope she does.

Michael Rosenthal


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