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Senior Housing Project Stirs Opposition:

A proposed senior housing project at the corner of 17th Street and Montana Avenue is encountering opposition from some neighbors who charge that it will cause parking and traffic problems and that the project’s developer may be exploiting the exceptions afforded to senior housing projects.

The project involves a mixed-use, two-story building with three two-story condominium units, a two-story commercial building for Senior Group Housing, and subterranean parking for 19 vehicles. The project includes LEED Certification Registration.

The site for the project is at the northeast corner of 17th and Montana, directly across Montana from the Montana Branch Library.

Sonya Sultan of NOMA (North of Montana Association) is among the critics of the project.

“Well over 100 neighbors have written letters to the City Planning Department and to City Council members to alert them to the concerns that we have,” says Sultan.

One concern is that although the current lot is zoned for eight apartments with one to one and a half parking spaces per unit, the new project calls for 17 housing units. The 19 parking spaces allotted would not take into account spaces needed for staff and visitors.

There is also concern that the design calls for a one-lane, two-way ramp to the parking garage, which could create traffic safety problems for cars entering and leaving the building on 17th Street, a narrow street, and on Montana, where buses run and where there is a bus stop.

NOMA member Ron Goldman of Goldman Firth Rossi Architects lists other neighborhood concerns, among them: “unfavorable impact on the quality of life, adverse traffic congestion as well as increased neighborhood parking problems… density too great for the area, and the danger of setting a precedent when it comes to other Santa Monica residential neighborhoods for apartment developments masquerading as senior group housing to achieve increased density and decreased parking.”

Goldman says NOMA has asked that City Planners alleviate “the dangerous driveway problems” on 17th and Montana, put strong restrictions on construction loading, storage, and dumpsters to minimize the impact of a probable 18-24 months of construction, and make sure that the 17 “efficiency units” of senior housing are not changed into one-bedroom apartments after completion of construction.

The developer, Charles Rosenbleet, has not responded to the Mirror’s requests for an interview. But the architect, David Kaplan of KCK Architects, did speak with us.

“It’s a conforming project – it fits into the neighborhood,” said Kaplan, who pointed out that the design will fit in with the “traditional neighborhood architecture,” that the parking arrangements will improve on the present conditions, including providing handicapped access, and that neighborhood meetings with groups such as Wilmont have yielded “positive perceptions.”

The original project, according to Kaplan, involved an “adult day care center” on the ground floor, which would be open only during the week, but which raised parking and traffic concerns. The project was changed to all housing to mitigate these concerns. But, said Kaplan, “Now that argument has shifted [to other things].”

The project was due to be discussed at the June 2 meeting of the Architectural Review Board (ARB). A meeting with City planning staff on May 27 resulted in the item being removed from the ARB’s June 2 agenda to allow more time for study of the issues raised at the meeting.

The item was then scheduled for the June 16 meeting, but Goldman claimed that planning staff did not communicate to the neighborhood group that their concerns would be discussed.

After numerous letters from Sultan, Goldman, and others, the issue was finally removed from the June 16 ARB agenda.

“We have no idea whether or not any of our recommendations have in fact been adopted by planning staff or whether our concerns have simply been ignored,” says Goldman.

At this time, the ARB has not yet scheduled a new hearing on the 17th and Montana project but NOMA believes it may be on July 7.

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