The political organization backed by the hotel, business and development interests known as “Santa Monicans For Sensible Priorities” has put out another slick flyer attacking Councilmember Kevin McKeown. But it has misrepresented the facts regarding security cameras and the Landmarks Commission’s normal review of additions to the Historic Santa Monica Pier and the Carousel Building.
On February, 14 2006 the City Council including Councilmember McKeown voted to approve a contract to install security cameras on the Santa Monica Pier and the Promenade. On June 27, 4 1/2 months later and less then two weeks prior to the next scheduled Landmarks Commission meeting, approval of the camera installation was before the City Council in the form of an emergency ordinance. Councilmember McKeown and other Councilmembers were concerned that this would bypass the Landmarks Commission review that would ensure that the historic integrity of the landmark Pier and highly important Carousel would be protected. Additionally, the Council had incomplete information regarding the installation procedure and any effort to protect the landmark buildings. The Council needed four votes to pass the emergency ordinance and it split 3-2 on the issue
During the intervening few days, the staff and the camera installers prepared a complete report on the cameras and the installation. On July 10, the more detailed and thoughtful report came before the Landmarks Commission. The proposal protected public security but also protected and was sensitive to the historic integrity of the Pier, the symbol of our City. The Certificate of Appropriateness was unanimously approved by the Landmarks Commission. The Pier and Carousal Building remain on the National Register of Historic Places with a minimum of potential irreversible damage.
Councilmember McKeown has been a steadfast supporter of the Landmarks Commission. He supports community efforts to protect neighborhood character from the rapid depletion of the historic fabric of our City. He supports reasonable growth through adaptive reuse. In addition he supports sustainability, containing traffic and rampant overdevelopment, and opposes destruction of our affordable housing stock thereby protecting both homeowners and tenants.
Perhaps this is why “Santa Monicans For Sensible Priorities” is working so hard to defeat him.
Chairperson, Santa Monica Landmarks Commission
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To Bradley J. Misner, AICP, Senior Planner
Dear Mr. Misner:
We are writing to express our opposition to the Planning Commission’s approval of three four-story condominium buildings at 1112 Pico Blvd.
We have reviewed the 165-page Initial Environmental Study conducted by Rincon Associates (its $38,689 cost paid for by the developers) and posted on www.santa-monica.org. We have found significant misconceptions in the report as follows:
1) The project will replace 15 existing single-story rent-controlled apartments with a four-story complex of 18 units. On page 34 of the report it states that this will result in an estimated increase of six people, thereby posing little if any impact on density, traffic, etc.
What the report fails to mention is that the existing 15 units are made up of very small bachelor and one-bedroom apartments, almost half of which are less than 250 square feet each. The total square footage of all the existing 15 units is 6712 square feet, an average size of 447 square feet. The proposed 18 condos will each range in size from 885 square feet to 1757 square feet, for a total of 23,952 square feet, an average of 1,331 square feet per unit. The new units represent more than a 350 percent increase in living area. Surely to suggest that converting 15 very small apartments into 18 family-size condos and estimating a net increase of six persons is grossly misleading. Clearly, these new condos are designed to house couples and families, unlike the existing structures. Cost alone will be one reason more people will need to live there – the average sales price for a condo in Santa Monica in the subject zip code (90405) in the last calendar year is $616 per square foot, according to the MLS, which would mean an average sales price of $819,896 per unit and a gross total of $14.75 million in sales to the developers.
Given the above, a more realistic estimate of the increase in the number of people would be to estimate two persons per condo, plus perhaps five condos with an average of two children each – a net increase of 25-31 persons, not six.
2) Most tellingly, the proposed development includes a new subterranean parking floor of 19,916 square feet with 40 parking spaces, an increase of 22 parking spaces from the existing 18. This fact raises the question of why would the developer add an additional 22 parking spaces for their estimated six-person increase? The answer is that there will be much more than a six-person increase. 22 new spaces for 25-31 new persons seems closer to the truth.
3) The report also states that the property is in an area where “the buildings range from one to four stories.” We wonder what area they are referring to? There are no four story buildings anywhere on Pico east of Lincoln to the eastern border of Santa Monica. There are no four-story buildings to the south (most are houses). And we are not aware of any nearby to the north until you get to the commercial district which begins north of the 10 freeway. There are a few three-story buildings on Pico east of Lincoln, notably at SMC, but by far the vast majority of the buildings in the area are one and two story. In fact, in the immediate area surrounding the project, the original developers took into consideration the natural topography (gently rising hillside) of the neighborhood and thus afforded each complex a beautiful sunset view from the second floor. The proposed project will change all that. Surely, the developers will advertise stunning sunset views from the new units knowing they have stolen ours. And no doubt the units facing the sunset will command premium prices. The loss of views from our units will no doubt reduce the value of our units.
It is important to note that many of the facts used to reach the above conclusions (simple math really) are nowhere to be found in the Rincon report, but are available in the public record.
So the developer paid Rincon Associates $38,689 for the required Environmental Impact Report, and Rincon found that there will be hardly any impact at all! In fact, in direct contrast to the findings in the 165-page Rincon Report, the new project will at least double the existing number of people living in the parcels, double the traffic through the alley and the side streets, increase noise, increase pollution, etc. We believe that this report contains blatantly false estimates, clear omissions of pertinent facts, and thus erroneous conclusions. The facts we have presented clearly demonstrate a more likely scenario relative to environmental and human impact.
And sadly, for us, the project as proposed will significantly impact our lives in a negative manner. We will lose our lovely northwestern views, we will have diminished sunlight, increased density, increased traffic in the alley, on Pico, on 11th and on Euclid. We fear the foregoing will result in reduced property values. Additionally, the projected site preparation and construction time of 14-22 months during which both Pico and Pico Place (our alley and entrance to our units via our garages) will be temporarily closed. It will also impede City services such as garbage collection and recycling. For how long will we forfeit the use of our own garages? Where will we park our cars, how will we access our bicycles, take out our trash? None of these extreme inconveniences are mentioned in the Rincon Report.
Santa Monica is known for its progressive leadership. Granting an amendment to the General Plan to allow this project to proceed as proposed would appear to benefit the interests of a private developer over the interests of the citizens of the neighborhood.
While we understand that development is inevitable, surely it’s in the best interest of all concerned for the developer to scale back this project to one more in sync with neighborhood norms. We propose the project be reduced to two stories (which could still contain 18 units, just smaller, and perhaps in fact result in the developers’ target net increase of six persons). This would be in keeping with current zoning and maintain the neighborhood look and feel, and minimize the traffic/density impact. In short, it would be a compromise to make everyone happy and still allow the developer a tidy profit with a shorter, less-disruptive construction time.
This project has been approved. We still chose to run this because we hope that all of old Santa Monica isn’t turned into something newer, bigger and “better.” If it can happen in this neighborhood, perhaps it could happen in yours too.