After a lengthy hearing, Santa Monica’s Planning Commission voted to deny an appeal of the City’s Architectural Review Board’s (ARB) approval of a new senior housing facility at 749 Montana Avenue.
The Commission originally heard the appeal back on September 17 but decided to delay their decision so the applicant could have time to address their concerns about the project. These concerns included modifying the project’s driveway, improving pick-up and drop-off points, upgrading the façade, providing more details regarding the location of items such as air-conditioning units, and determining if an additional environmental study is needed under the state’s environmental laws.
At the November 5 meeting, the consensus of the Commission was that the majority of their concerns had been met, so they denied the appeal, meaning the project could go forward. Attorney Robert Glushand, who was representing appellants, the Montana Neighborhood Coalition and Ron Goldman, argued that the revised project required an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) because of its “potential environmental impacts.”
City land use attorney Barry Rosenbaum explained that this project was exempt from the California Environmental Quality Act which determines when EIRs are necessary, and therefore no EIR was required.
The appellants’ traffic engineer, Arthur Kassin, stated that the project’s proposed driveway width was inadequate and therefore would cause unsafe traffic conditions.
Some residents also expressed concerns about the project’s impact on traffic on both 17th Street and Montana Avenue.
Commissioner Gerda Newbold summed up the Commission’s decision on the project’s traffic impacts by noting that it was better to place senior housing at this location because seniors “drive less and are in and out less.” She also noted that if this project weren’t built there, another one with even more of a traffic impact would be.
Commissioner Jay Johnson was the only Commissioner to vote against denying the appeal because of his concerns about the project’s impact on traffic and whether there should be more environmental studies done on the project.
Several Commissioners and residents stated that the location of the project was perfect for seniors because it is near the Montana Branch Library and a bus stop, and is within walking distance to a market.
The project will contain 17 units designed for senior independent living and 19 subterranean parking spaces.