A new hotel/residential/commercial project may soon become part of Santa Monica if a Development Agreement (DA) can be negotiated between the City and Maxser and Company, Ltd.
The process began on June 10 when the Planning Commission unanimously recommended that the City Council initiate the DA negotiation and review process at their special meeting for this project.
A DA negotiation process is usually undertaken when a project’s parameters fall outside the City’s zoning codes and if the City can obtain substantial public benefits by allowing the project to be built. In this case according to the City staff report, the application of multiple zoning development standards because the project spans three different zoning districts, and the “desire for a feasible adaptive re-use of the Landmarks structure, represent unusual circumstances that warrant consideration of a DA.”
The proposed project would include an adaptive re-use of an existing 7-story designated City Landmark office building (Santa Monica Professional Building) into a hotel use with 44 guest rooms, a 3,877 square foot conference center, and approximately 7,000 square feet of ground floor retail uses. The project’s architect Howard Laks noted during his presentation that the building was built in 1928 and was designated a landmark by the City ‘s Landmark Commission in August of 2005.
Also part of the project is the construction of a new 8-story hotel building with 240 guest rooms, approximately 4,100 square feet of ground floor retail space, approximately 14,700 of food market space, and 16 multi-family rental units on the 7th and 8th floors. Other project features are a ground-floor open-air paseo of approximately 5,200 square feet, and a landscaped, second floor podium-level open space of approximately 5,300 square feet, 15 surface parking spaces, and 445 parking spaces housed in a 4-level subterranean parking garage. The proposed project would incorporate the 710 Wilshire Boulevard landmarked parcel, the Enterprise rental car agency property at 718 Wilshire Boulevard, the parking lot located at 1213-1233 7th Street, and the parking lot at 1218 Lincoln Boulevard.
A number of community members spoke at the meeting. Ellen Hannon who lives right around the corner from the proposed project site told the Commission “I oppose this project because of its massive size.” There are three other buildings on the same block that have DAs. Not one of them has complied with their DA and the “City Staff has never put their feet to the fire” about this.
Another Santa Monica resident, Mary Marlow, stated she “applauded the re-use of a landmarked building” but the heights of the project’s buildings were a problem. The tallest buildings on Wilshire are six stories and most are three to four stories so there is an “inappropriate transition to the surrounding neighborhood.” She was also concerned that the City was trying to enter into a DA without the City’s update of its Land Use and Circulation Elements being completed.
Commission members agreed with Commission Chair Terry O’Day that the “opportunity to obtain public benefits is significant.” They also urged the City Council to discuss a number of project characteristics and possible public benefits when reviewing the project. Among the project characteristics were improving its frontage on Wilshire, reducing the heights of some of its buildings, finding a more appropriate use for its Lincoln site, improving the Lincoln’s site’s urban design characteristics, retaining an Enterprise-like rent-a-car business, and including a bike rental business. In terms of public benefits, the Commission was interested in seeing the project include workforce housing, having a local hiring and living wage requirement, and improving programming at the Miles Playhouse in Christine Reed Park.