The developer for the proposed 12-story 4th/5th and Arizona project came back in front of the Santa Monica Planning Commission on Wednesday night for a public hearing that lasted more than three-and-a-half hours.
It is part of a long process that began in 2007 when City Council first began to acquire the parcels of land for this, at the time, unimagined project. Then in December of 2010 the City endorsed guiding principles for the site and approved initiation of a community planning process.
The most recent iteration of Metro Pacific replica watches Capital’s proposed 148-foot mixed-use building includes 195 hotel rooms, 206,800 square feet of office space, 40,000 square feet of retail space, 48 affordable residential units,12,000 square feet of cultural space, 51,000 square feet of public open space, and 1,143 parking spaces within a four-level subterranean parking garage – the result of years of planning, discussion, and public outreach.
A major concern for the Planning Commission was the amount of space dedicated to offices, an amount that they’d like to see reduced in favor of adding more housing.
“I think there is some agreement that affordable housing is the most in line with the City’s goals and more office space is the least in line with the City’s priorities for this project,” Commissioner Carter Rubin said.
Commissioner Jason Parry said that what “draws [this project] down is the amount of office space,” an amount that, as it stands now, is dedicated 206,800 square feet of space.
The project site consists of nine contiguous parcels comprising 112,00 square feet enveloped by 4th Street, Arizona Avenue, and 5th Street. The site is currently developed with surface parking lots and two onestory banks, Chase and Bank of America.
According to City staff, the proposed building design is contemporary and presents a unique “hinge” design that reduces the perceived mass of the building from street level, maximizes ground floor and upper level open space in the project, and also increases opportunity for natural light and ventilation for project tenants.
Slow-growth group Residocracy has come out in opposition to the project, saying that the 148-foot building would severely alter the skyline, create shadows, block the sun and beach breezes, and “severely impact traffic and congestion.”
However, as Commissioner Rubin pointed out, this “would be about the fifth tallest building in Santa Monica in the downtown area” and “thinks [that] the way it has been tackled…it effectively mitigates some of the issues people have with height.”
The Draft Downtown Specific Plan (DSP) requires a Downtown Core with a maximum height of 84 feet, which the proposed building does not comply with.
At the June 10, 2014 meeting, City Council gave direction to proceed with the 148-foot high iteration and directed that the project be studied as part of the public process with direction to also study other height scenarios.
At 148 feet, the project would require a general plan amendment for the building height.
Residocracy instead says, according to their e-petition, that the site would best be used as a “grand 2.5-acre downtown greenspace park” and are prepared to go through with a referendum if the 148-foot building proposal moves forward.
“I don’t think this site is necessarily appropriate for that,” said Commissioner
Rubin, in response to using the space for park development, “given that by my count Reed Park is three blocks away, Palisades Park is four blocks away, and Tongva Park is five blocks away.”
Rubin instead offered to use the revenue that the City receives from the ground lease, which he suggested would cover the original costs in acquiring the parcels, to build a park elsewhere, maybe in an area of high density and where there is a significant amount of affordable housing.
The Planning Commission moved to recommend City Council to direct staff to negotiations on development agreement, with recommendations that they look at increasing the amount of housing and affordable housing at the site, decreasing the amount of office space, reevaluate the parking approach in terms of pricing, quantity, and location, and to look at alternative park locations using the revenue generated from the project.
“For this project we have such extremes of opinions in the public. There are people who absolutely love it and there are those who hate it so much they don’t even want to see anything on it. They just want it as a park,” said Parry, indirectly addressing the polarity of opinions heard during the public hearing. “I would hope that there is some sort of space for some middle ground.”
The project will now return to City Council and then go through an environmental review process, to then go back to the Planning Commission and then again to Council for a final vote.