20th and Arizona project given green light
By Dolores Quintana
The redevelopment of the administration wing of the former Gates, Kingsley, and Gates Mortuary has officially been approved by the Santa Monica Planning Commission as reported by the Santa Monica Daily Press.
The building was built in 1933 and the chapel area of the original building was redeveloped and turned into the Tartine Bakery and restaurant. A previous version of the development was turned down by the commission as a Tier Two project that would have been five stories and 70 feet tall that was first proposed in 2016. As approved, the new version of the proposed Wellness Center is a Tier One project that will be 45 feet tall, three story building containing 76,167 square feet of research and development and medical clinic facility space that comes with an underground parking structure that is five levels deep and comes with 275 parking spaces.
All told the project will be contained in the parcels of land at 1925 Arizona Avenue along with 1234 and 1242 20th Street. The principal objection to the first proposal seems to be the height of the proposed building that the Commission didn’t feel fit the character of the city. The new project makes an effort to maintain the character of the Gates, Kingsley, and Gates Mortuary building’s Tudor Revival style and landscaping to address the concerns of the Commission. The changes to the GKG building would be limited to removal of an outside veneer that was not part of the original plan and changes in access points.
The staff report notes that “The Wellness Center would accommodate a range of medical research activities, including space for laboratory modules, specialized equipment, medical archives, and support offices. The project would include approximately 54,000 square feet of medical related research and development space within the P1 level, ground floor, and second floor. Medical clinic and outpatient care would include exam rooms and flexible spaces for patient treatment and administration. The project would include 18,428 square feet of medical clinic space and occupy the entire third floor.”
Another concern led Commissioner Ellis Raskin to forgo voting on the project. Commission Raskin also refused to support the Environmental report on the development. Raskin said that “The loss of 10 potential apartment units needed to be addressed and that the $560,000 in mitigation fees paid to offset the removal was not enough.” and added that “Notwithstanding how much money we’re getting out of it, we’re still losing 10 apartments. That impact should be appropriately mitigated. For that reason I think I’m not going to be supporting the EIR,” as quoted by the Santa Monica Daily Press. Because of the housing crisis, the Commission has temporarily decided to refuse to consider any new projects that are not housing units, but has allowed developments that are already under consideration to be reviewed and potentially approved.
Commissioner Shawn Landres said in response, “I want to say very clearly, as we saw in the staff report, Council explicitly exempted applications that were in the pipeline as of a certain date when it moved to restrict the production of commercial uses on unavailable properties. So I too wish this was housing, it is a great site for housing. But I don’t feel in the context of a quasi-judicial hearing that we can refuse to certify the EIR or refuse to approve a project given the council has clearly made policy on this matter,” as quoted by the Santa Monica Daily Press
Another concern with the building regarded the former mortuary’s use of dangerous chemicals like formaldehyde. Commissioner Mario Fonda-Bonardi was disappointed by the lack of action on the part of the council on this issue and said, “I am not happy that we cannot raise the bar regarding health and safety beyond what maybe the green code allowed. I think we should be pushing ahead. And every chance we get we should push ahead. So the argument that we can’t make it for this project because we’d have to make it for all the other projects, I think is exactly upside down. We should make it for all the other projects,” according to the Santa Monica Daily Press.