Community councils from across the Westside, fearing even more traffic on the notoriously gridlocked east side of Santa Monica, are banding together against the Bergamot Transit Village and nearby projects.
Leaders from eight Santa Monica neighborhood associations and representatives from nine neighboring communities held a news conference Monday afternoon to call for the end of what they call "piecemeal" planning for a number of developments along Olympic Boulevard, east of Cloverfield.
"We must have good regional planning here. We must have it now," Diana Gordon, co-chair of Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City, said at the news conference.
A draft of a state-mandated environmental review of the 206,000-square-foot Bergamot Transit Village Center project was released Jan. 12 and concludes that with small changes to lanes and signal phasing, the project would create "significant and unavoidable" traffic effects.
"If you can't mitigate it, then you have to reconfigure and better design this project so we can all live with the impacts," said Gordon.
The transit village would be constructed at the 7.1-acre PaperMate site, across from the renowned art gallery complex and a , which will connect downtown Los Angeles to Santa Monica. As proposed, the project consists of five buildings for residences, offices and retail and commercial outlets totaling 766,094 square feet.
The environmental impact report for the project, critics said, is too narrow.
It doesn't take into account all of the other traffic that would be generated by six other projects under construction or being planned near the transit village, they said.
The projects—, Santa Monica Academy of Entertainment and Technology, , Roberts Business Center, the and Paseo Nebraska—will produce nearly 2.1 million square feet of additional office space, generating 24,000 new car trips daily in the area, according to the neighborhood councils.
"Between this massive project and the other projects in the pipeline we're looking at 15 percent increase in office space," said Gordon. "We simply can't become more of an office super power."
The eastern edge of Santa Monica is one of the most overdeveloped areas in Los Angeles County, said Lauren Cole of the Brentwood Community Council.
"For the city of Santa Monica to propose adding an additional 2 million square feet of development in same area—of which 1.2 million square feet is additional office space—is unconscionable," she said. "Commercial development in this area not only affects Santa Monica but all of the surrounding neighborhoods in Los Angeles as well."
The environmental impact report for the Bergamot Transit Village looked at 12 intersections that are under the shared jurisdiction of Santa Monica and Los Angeles and 37 intersections exclusively within the city of Los Angeles.
Out of the 49 intersections studied, the report identified 12 as likely to be "significantly impacted" by the project and offered solutions to ease congestion in three of the locations, leaving the remaining nine intersections as those where impacts "cannot be mitigated."
The 12 intersections: Walgrove Avenue at Rose Avenue and at Venice Boulevard; Centinela Avenue at Colorado Avenue/Idaho Avenue; Olympic Boulevard and at the 10 freeway westbound ramps; Bundy Drive at Olympic, Pico, Ocean Park and National boulevards; and Barrington Avenue at Wilshire, Santa Monica and Olympic boulevards.
"Just because a project call itself a transit village or a transit-oriented project doesn't mean it meets the criteria for those kinds of development," said Barbara Broide, President of the Westwood South of Santa Monica Boulevard Homeowners Association. "Without a master plan we have piecemeal development with developers writing our city land-use plans."
Monday was the last day the public could comment on the draft report.
According to Gordon, the city has received 300 comments, including a stern letter from the Los Angeles Department of Transportation, which raised similar concerns about the thoroughness of the EIR and the need for a regional plan.
"We believe that if the … traffic impacts of each previously approved project were examined in a cumulative fashion, the combined cumulative traffic impacts to the city of Los Angeles would be much higher than currently stated," wrote transportation engineer Edward Guerrero Jr.
The Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City—which first rose up against plans for a much larger at the south end of the Third Street Promenade—has hired Strumwasser and Woocher LLP to represent it in its opposition to the Bergamot Transit Village.
After the conference, Gordon submitted a 24-page report to City Hall written by attorney Beverly G. Palmer that asks the city to revise and recirculate the environmental review.
Palmer contends that the EIR does not include even one "appropriate alternative" to the developer's proposal. She suggests the city insist that the amount of office space be reduced, thereby lessening the impact of commuter traffic.
"The issue is really the office space, because that's what brings people through our neighborhoods in Brentwood and West L.A. in the morning and has them leave at night," said Cole. "We'd be perfectly having them add more residential or retail."
At the news conference were representatives from the Brentwood Community Council, Brentwood Homeowners Association, Mar Vista Community Council, Pacific Palisades Community Council, South Brentwood Residents' Association, West L.A. Neighborhood Council, Westside Neighborhood Council, Westwood South of Santa Monica Boulevard Homeowners Association and the Venice Neighborhood Council.
Jay Handal, chair of the West L.A. Neighborhood Council, said his district is the "not so proud recipient" of Santa Monica traffic that he said keeps police from being able to traverse Butler and paramedics from being able to zip down Olympic in emergencies.
"I urge the city of Los Angeles to sue on the EIR for this project," he said. "It's time for the city of Santa Monica to step up. Do the right thing and turn the entire area into a master plan that we can look at."
Before it approved the project in late March 2011, the Santa Monica City Council asked the developer, Hines 26th Street, LLC, to reduce its size by close to 200,000 square feet from a total of 957,000.