Work to begin February 14
By Sam Catanzaro
The City of Santa Monica will soon begin the demolition of a parking structure to make way for affordable housing.
The City of Santa Monica will begin demolition of Parking Structure 3 at 1318-20 Fourth Street on Monday, February 14, 2022 to clear the site for affordable housing. Fencing will go up on Thursday, February 10, 2022. AMPCO Contracting Inc. will carry out the demolition will EAH Inc. will be the project developer.
The demolition, which is expected to take approximately six months, comes on the heels of the Superior Court of California issuing a final order in the City’s favor, dismissing a lawsuit put forward by the Santa Monica Bayside Owners Association.
On Friday, January 28, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mitchell Beckloff ruled that the City of Santa Monica could proceed to tear down Parking Structure 3, located on Fourth Street between Arizona Avenue and Santa Monica Boulevard. Beckloff’s ruling was based on a technicality surrounding a state law: the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The law requires that after filing a lawsuit, petitioners must request a hearing within 90 days. Attorneys for the petitioners, a group of business and property owners called the Bayside Owners Association, missed this deadline by 22 days.
“I don’t really know that there’s any way around dismissal,” Beckloff said at Friday’s hearing, conducted via phone, explaining he was bound by previous case law. “I’m bound by all these cases. I don’t have the discretion to say I don’t agree with them.”
“There’s something that really bothered me working on this,” he added. “I certainly don’t take this decision cavalierly.”
Ellia Thompson, an attorney for the petitioners, took responsibility for the error during Friday’s hearing. According to Thompson, she was without a secretary for much of the pandemic and the filing deadline “slipped through the cracks.”
“I have struggled during COVID to stay on top of everything. I find it difficult to handle my cases,” Thompson said. “This requirement to file for a trial-setting conference, it slipped through the cracks.”
“In my 17 years of practice, I have never made such a mistake,” she added.
At the hearing Friday, petitioners argued that “for all practical purposes, the court’s notice of a trial setting conference and Petitioner’s service of same eliminated the need for the technical hearing request.” Beckloff however, called this argument “not persuasive.”
“Petitioner did not initiate the trial setting conference notice. The court generated the notice. Pursuant to the court’s local rules, the court set the matter for a trial setting conference and served Petitioner with notice,” reads the ruling. “The court cannot attribute its own actions as demonstrating substantial compliance by Petitioner. Moreover, there is no evidence any other party to the action received notice of the trial setting conference until after the 90-day date.”
The ruling comes two weeks after Beckloff granted the petitioners’ request for a preliminary injunction halting the structure’s demolition.
According to the City of Santa Monica website, since the early 2000s, the City has planned to demolish the 337-space structure.
“The structure is in need of seismic retrofitting, which the City deemed not to be cost effective given that Parking Structure #3 offers fewer parking spaces than surrounding structures,” the City’s website states.
After the California Coastal Commission gave a green light for the lot’s demolition, the Bayside Owners Association filed a CEQA lawsuit in June 2021.
“The city has blatantly disregarded the interests and will of the public, including the thousands of residents, businesses, and visitors who regularly rely on parking structure #3 to serve as their everyday access to the beach, shops, restaurants, and offices in the bustling downtown area,” reads the lawsuit. “The city’s unnecessary drive to demolish parking structure #3 now — without an actual plan, developer, or funding in place for the mixed-use affordable housing project to follow — is premature and would invariably leave an irreparable, gaping hole in the downtown streetscape.