Almost every community member who spoke at this week’s planning commission meeting opposed the stretching canvas of projects proposed for Olympic Boulevard, Berkeley Street and Nebraska Avenue. Among others, their primary concern was the dramatic increase in traffic these projects will have on an already-high-traffic area.
NMS Properties, Inc. wants to develop 3025 Olympic Boulevard, 1819-1820 Berkeley Street, and a stretch of properties along the 3000 block of Nebraska Avenue with a project that would contain mixed-use moderate/workforce/market rate housing, creative arts office space, and neighborhood-serving retail space. Jim Andersen, NMS’s chief operating officer, discussed the conceptual plans for the project with the Planning Commission on February 3.
Andersen is working with the City on a formal development agreement, which are agreed to when 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.
The proposed project consists of 545 multi-family housing units ranging from studios to three-bedroom units. 20 percent of the units would be moderate-income units, 60 percent would be workforce units, and the remaining 20 percent would be market rate units. The development would also contain approximately 80,000 square feet of flexible floor area for neighborhood-serving commercial space and creative office space, a series of publicly accessible pedestrian paseos, and a 1000-space, subterranean parking garage.
Andersen’s project plans include a number of public benefits such as providing mixed-income housing adjacent to the planned Expo Light Rail coming to Santa Monica in 2015. Other benefits are providing Class A creative studio and office space, improving the pedestrian environment on Nebraska Avenue, improving the connectivity with Olympic Boulevard by extending Berkeley and Stanford Streets, and reducing car trips by having housing, jobs and neighborhood serving retail on site.
The developer said it would work with the city to develop a Transportation Demand Management Program in order to reduce the number of car trips related to the project.
Despite all these proposals to benefit the area, almost all community members who spoke at the meeting were opposed to the project.
Zina Joseph, president of the Friends of Sunset Park, noted the distance from 26th Street and Olympic Boulevard to Centinela and Olympic Boulevard is 0.64 miles. In this stretch, there are “eight developments proposed on or near that section of Olympic Boulevard” that will add about 2 million square feet of development which she said will produce more than 30,000 car trips per day – not including the 20,000 car trips that the Bundy Village and Medical Center project will produce. There are already 33,000 car trips on that section of Olympic Boulevard.
Sally Allen, a Sunset Park resident said the “planned limited light rail system will just be a band-aid … We are looking to you [the Commission] to protect us from this type of development. Please, please stop this madness!”
Others raised concerns that the project’s parameters didn’t comply with the Draft Land Use and Circulation Element (DLUCE). “It seems my neighborhood will not receive the protections previously promised in the DLUCE,” said Katherine Eldridge, a mid-city resident. “Instead it will be sold to the highest bidder and the DLUCE designated public benefits will be used to sweeten the deal.”
Community members were also concerned about the proposed 507 average square feet being proposed for the residential units and whether the average teacher or nurse could afford the estimated rents the developer was suggesting. Mid-City Neighbors President called the project “a slum by the sea.”
The Commission had a mixed reaction but each Commissioner made recommendations on how the project could be improved. Commissioner Ted Winterer, who is an applicant for the vacant City Council seat, told his colleagues “I feel we’re rushing into this without a cogent plan. I recommend that we hold up all Development Agreements until we finalize the LUCE.”
Commissioner Jay Johnson supported this position, but Commissioner Gerda Neubold disagreed, saying, “it makes sense that development is being proposed where the light rail is going.”
Commissioner Jim Reis attributed his support of the development as pertaining to the larger problem of the city’s imbalance of jobs versus housing. In his view, the city “needs to get more housing as soon as possible.”
The project will now move on to the City Council for their review.
Mirror Contributing Writerhannah@smmirror.com