Hines, an international real estate firm, wants to develop the former Papermate site with 60 percent commercial and 40 percent residential development. This project was the only item on the Commission’s January 27 agenda, and the meeting lasted for five and one-quarter hours. Colin Shepard, Hines’ senior vice president, discussed the conceptual plans for the project.
At this time his firm is working with the City on a development agreement, s device whereby a developer offers the City public benefits in exchange for being permitted to develop a project with parameters (such as height) that are outside of the of the City’s zoning standards.
Shepard described Bergamot Village, which would be located at 1681 26th Street, as a project that would contain affordable workforce housing and give priority to teachers, nurses, firefighters, police officers, and other community-serving employees. Neighborhood-serving retail services will also be included as well as connectivity throughout the site to the future Bergamot light rail station.
Shepard emphasized that the “objective is to create uses that will be directly related to the light rail.”
Also part of the project would be walkable plazas with seating and green spaces. These spaces could be used for public gatherings, the arts, and would include an amphitheater that could be used by entities such as the Pico Youth and Family Center, the school district, and others.
The seven-acre site would also contain four passageways to increase its permeability and connection to the street grid. Three of the passages would be suitable for bicycles and pedestrians and one would be dedicated to vehicles.
Hines disclosed that the average height of the proposed structure would be 71 feet, with the highest point being 81 feet (7 floors). He also said the project would contain many sustainable features and be LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) pre-certified.
The majority of attendees in opposition raised concerns about traffic that this and other proposed projects in the immediate area would generate.
“You are relying on behavioral changes to ease traffic from this project,” said Liz Cain, a College Street resident. “What sort of insurance do those of us who live here have if you can’t get people to use the light rail Expo line or you can’t get them to walk?”
Shepard said his firm hired a traffic consultant to develop a plan to reduce car trips to and from the project. Their proposed Traffic Demand Management (TDM) program could reduce trips as much as 66 percent. This would make it possible for the project to only need 2,000 parking spaces – half of what is normally required.
“There are no public benefits that can possibly make up for the negative permanent commuter traffic that will come through our neighborhood,” said Zina Josephs, president of the Friends of Sunset Park. “There is no guarantee workers will live locally and not commute.”
“We simply can’t afford to build out our City with more commercial development as we did over the last 20 years,” stressed Diana Gordon, a steering committee member of the Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City. “This project will throw our jobs (and) housing balance further out of balance.”
A few people spoke in favor of the project. Hillel Kellerman who owns property northwest of the project site summed up those sentiments when he said, “This seems the best use for this area. Right now it’s an eyesore and it’s the gateway to our City.” He added, “This project will create needed jobs.”
The Commission supported a development agreement for the project but made multiple suggestions on how the developer could make the project better. Commissioner Gerda Newbold viewed “breaking up the site as a huge benefit to the area” and she liked that the project included affordable and workforce housing.
Commissioner Jason Parry wanted the City “to move forward because of the project’s location and size. It has the potential – if all of us get it right – to be the thing other proposed projects can work off of.”
The proposed project moves on to the City Council for its review.
Contact Hannah Heineman