Santa Monica’s Planning Commission was delighted with Colorado Creative Studios’ concept proposal for an entertainment studio that will focus on post-production activities for Lionsgate Studios at 2834 Colorado Avenue.
Colorado Creative Studios is both the owner and developer of the property. The Commission called the proposal “just the type of project” it would like to see located in the City’s Light Manufacturing Studio District (LMSD).
The proposed multi-media studio will be three stories high, which is 45 feet, with 147,000 square feet of studio space, and a two-level subterranean parking garage with 412 parking spaces. After completion, the project will also include the Lionsgate operations that are currently housed in another Colorado Avenue building.
Colorado Creative Studios is proposing entering into a Development Agreement (DA) with the City because some of the project’s parameters fall outside the City’s zoning codes. When this happens, a developer must offer public benefits in exchange for being able to take exception to the City’s building codes. In this case, several of the public benefits include new tax revenue for the City, the creation of high-paying jobs, and some “green” building features.
Zina Josephs, president of Friends of Sunset Park neighborhood group, read from a letter her organization and others had sent to the City, “This is an example of a project that should be placed on hold until the LUCE update [the ongoing update of the City’s Land Use and Circulation Elements] is completed.” She added, “As proposed, this project’s size, scale, and potential traffic impacts are inconsistent with the [surrounding] neighborhood.”
Commissioner Julie Lopez Dad also had concerns about the City entering into a DA with Colorado Creative Studios “because we are not further along in the land use element…the area is changing and we’re on the verge of possibly…helping along a project that might…not be what we want there.”
The other commissioners gave suggestions on how the project’s concept could be improved, including a traffic management plan, installing an additional traffic signal in the area, access to the site on the south end, turning it into a showcase for sustainable architecture, public art, a food service area, pedestrian use, connections to bike lanes, a Flexcar facility, and shared parking (for the tenant as well as the community). Other suggestions included internships for local youth in post-production, point-to-point shuttles for employees, a daycare center, and assistance to help relocate small businesses currently at 2834 Colorado.
In other planning news, Commission members gave their approval to all the documents needed for a 92-unit affordable housing project to be located at 1959 High Place and 2349 Virginia Avenue. Community Corporation of Santa Monica (CCSM) is developing the project for low- and moderate-income households.
The three-story project will include 47 apartments and 45 condominiums of either two or three bedrooms, and a community room for the community-at-large. A single level of subterranean parking will be included for the apartments and for the condominiums, and the current High Place site will be replaced with a 22-foot alley. The environmental analysis for the project has shown it will have “significant, unavoidable impacts to traffic at two intersections” – Cloverfield and Pearl, and Kansas and Stewart. Two street segments will also be affected – Virginia Avenue between Cloverfield Boulevard and High Place, and Virginia between Cloverfield and 20th Street.
The Commission gave their approval to the project as a whole, but only the condominium portion was subject to the Commission’s development review because the review of affordable apartments is not necessary.
Executive Director of CCSM Joan Ling explained that the condominium portion of this project is the result of CCSM wanting to try “affordable housing ownership as an experiment.” The condos will be affordable to households making $50,000 to $60,000 a year, while the apartments will be affordable to those earning $20,000 to $40,000 a year.
The community members who spoke were all in favor of the project, though some expressed concern about the anticipated loss of street parking. Attorney Paul De Santos expressed his support for the project by stating there’s now a crisis in this City for moderate income people who earn $50,000 to $60,000 a year “who can’t purchase property in this City anymore” such as teachers, nurses, and people working for the City.
School Board member Maria Leon-Vasquez stressed that such a project would allow more families with children to be able to afford to live in Santa Monica and help increase enrollment in the school district because enrollment is currently “declining.”
Pico Neighborhood Association Board member Maria Loya told the Commission that her organization supports the project but wants to be certain “it’s built responsibly, and since some of the impacts of the project can’t be mitigated, we want to make sure the residents of the neighborhood see the benefits of this project and not just experience the burden.”
Commissioner Jay Johnson called the project a “breakthrough” project for the City because of its affordable condominium component.