The Santa Monica Planning Commission unanimously approved the development agreement for the St. Monica Catholic Community Center located on 725 California Avenue. Despite mixed public support, traffic, and timing concerns, the extensive redesign gained the commission’s support at the planning commission meeting on St. Patrick’s Day.
Debate centered on the traffic congestion and lack of parking that overwhelms the surrounding neighborhood. Principal Planner Brad Misner said several letters received in the twenty-four hours before the meeting cited concern over construction impacts, noise, and traffic.
The entire property encompasses the entire square block of Lincoln Boulevard and California Avenue stretching to 7th Street and Washington Avenue. One speaker expressed concern about the half-hour back-ups as members attempt to enter the current parking lots. Several church members spoke in favor of the project.
Michael Hanaway spoke against the project as it coincides with the California Incline Bridge Project, which will replace the bridge connecting Pacific Coast Highway and Ocean Avenue. Hanaway said the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) did not address the additional traffic that will be rerouted down Lincoln due to the bridge closure. He claimed 61,000 to 79,000 additional cars will go through the neighborhood.
“The fact is that when the Incline Project starts, then Lincoln will be the detour freeway for the I-10 freeway,” Hanaway said. “Overlapping is going to happen in this project. It is unacceptable that we are going to create a perfect storm of traffic safety issues.”
Hanaway called for a delay or cancellation of the project until proper assessment of the rerouted traffic was produced.
Tom Zanick, representative for Santa Monica, said the construction aims to solve parking issues while improving the center for both church members and the community. During a thorough presentation, Zanick said the addition of 154 parking spaces will free-up parking in the neighborhood. He called the scale very appropriate and a “sensitive design.”
“Important to recognize what our plan is and what our plan isn’t,” Zanick said. “All parking is subterranean so not one has to look at it. It provides more inviting spaces to share with our neighbors.”
Off-site parking at 1140 7th Street will offer 15 spaces for community members to use after 8 p.m. until 7 a.m. Zanick said the hours reflect St. Monica’s needs for event parking. He said the construction plan is designed to give space to the current congregation and school, while improving out-dated facilities.
St. Monica Catholic Community Center will embark on a two-phase “Campus Enhancement and Parking Improvement Plan” over the next three to four years. The project will include a new subterranean parking structure, a 7,700 square foot addition to the high school building, and structural renovations to areas such as to the gymnasium and courtyard. A café and bookstore will be at the Lincoln Boulevard corner that will be open to the public.
St. Monica first approached the Planning Commission in November of 2008 before making modifications according to the commission’s recommendations. This time around the importance of promoting a Transportation Management Program (TMP) would alleviate major traffic issues. Planning projections offer an expected reduction of 20-30 percent in traffic.
“The issue right now is we have a parking problem, right now I wouldn’t say we have a huge traffic problem, but don’t have a way to address the traffic concerns,” Commissioner Jay Johnson said. “We are trying to get extensive strategies to get primarily students and teachers out of cars and into public transportation.”
St. Monica’s houses 630 students in the campus high school and 315 in the elementary. There are 107 employees. The development agreement language indicates that the average vehicle ride goal is 1.5 people per car.
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