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Planning Board Approves City Council Review Of Agensys Project:

Agensys, a Japanese owned biotechnology company focusing on the development of drugs to treat cancer, has been operating in Santa Monica since 1997 at five different sites but now they want to combine all their operations by building headquarters at 1800 Stewart Street.

The approximately 4-acre, 1800 Stewart Street site, is owned by the City of Santa Monica and is adjacent to the site that eventually will become Bergamot Station when the Expo Light Rail line is completed in 2015. It currently contains two buildings that are approved for entertainment production use. Lionstone is currently leasing the site through the end of this summer. Agensys would like to acquire the ground lease, demolish the site’s buildings, and construct a 153,000 square foot project for their administrative offices, manufacturing areas, and research and development facilities.

Conceptual project details include housing up to a maximum of 300 employees in a two and three story building, having 300 surface parking spaces, creating a public park in between Bergamot Station and the site, placing a mural on the headquarters’ side that faces Bergamot Station, placing a 20,000 square foot plaza on the second floor, and developing a Traffic Demand Management Plan. Agensys is also designing its project to be LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) certified. They want to begin construction in 2011 and complete their project by 2012.

Agensys would like to enter into a Development Agreement (DA) with the City. A DA is agreed to by Santa Monica and a developer when the developer offers the City public benefits in exchange for being permitted to develop their project with parameters that are outside of the of the City’s zoning standards. In this case, the proposed project height is 55 feet which is above what is currently permitted by the City zoning codes but would be permitted by the City’s Draft Land Use and Circulation Element if public benefits are included.

Agensys’ Executive Vice President of Finance and Operations, Paul Cannon, told the Commission that his company was proposing numerous public benefits. They included a pedestrian path to Bergamot Station with security and lighting, linear public open space adjacent to Bergamot Station, widened sidewalks along Stewart Street, a student internship program, and school tours.

Agensys’ attorney Dale Goldsmith explained to the Commission that his client “simply cannot wait for the LUCE update to be approved” before making a decision on their DA because they are under pressure to acquire the lease from Lionstone by the end of the summer.

Project neighbor Katherine Eldridge expressed concern about the pedestrian uses being offered as public benefits when she stated, “to say that an amenity serves the public when it is actually a necessity for their own employees and business is not an acceptable definition for a bonus serving amenity to the public.”

Sunset Park resident Sarah Jane Allen, questioned whether the project’s goal of building fewer parking spaces on site will really encourage fewer of their employees to drive to work. She was also concerned about the cumulative traffic impacts this project and other projects being proposed near Bergamot Station would generate. She called for a “moratorium [on all projects in this area] until the traffic impacts can be dealt with.”

The Commission offered suggestions on how the project could be improved. Commissioner Ted Winterer, like his fellow commissioners, liked keeping the company in Santa Monica but stated, “a lot of work needs to be done on the design” of the project so it fits in better with the surrounding neighborhood. He also asked for more open space.

Winterer and Commissioner Jay Johnson called for there to be more connections made to some of the other projects being proposed in the area. Johnson also asked for shared parking facilities to be developed between the projects.

Commissioners Jason Parry and Gerda Neubold were concerned that the “parking reduction might result in unintended consequences on neighborhood streets.”

The proposed project will now move on to the City Council for their review.

The Commission also approved Conditional Use Permits for two restaurants that will be part of the remodeled Santa Monica Place when it opens this coming August. The Blue Stove will be located in the Nordstrom’s department store and the Ozumo Restaurant will be located in the mall’s third floor dining deck.

<p><BR><span style=”color:gray”><b>Hannah Heineman</b><br>

<i>Mirror Contributing Writer</i></span><br><a href=””><span style=”color:blue”></span></a>

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