New AMC Will Worsen Downtown Traffic, Report Says

A parking garage with 344 vehicle spots would be eliminated as part of the theater proposal.

Gridlock at some of Santa Monica's busiest downtown intersections could be further snarled by a proposed movie theater on Fourth Street at Arizona Avenue, and there's little the city could do to alleviate the congestion, according to a new environmental report.

The report forecasts increased traffic midday on weekends at Fourth and Colorado Avenue, during peak afternoon hours at Fourth and Broadway and in the mornings and midday on weekends at Lincoln and Santa Monica boulevards.

Further worsening traffic, the 12-screen theater is proposed to be built where Parking Structure No. 3 stands today, requiring the demolition of 344 precious sparking spaces. There are no plans to build parking on-site.

During the busiest times of day, cars would cruise the streets from one packed parking garage to another, worsening traffic at the impacted intersections, according to the report.

"While mitigation may reduce cruising behavior, there is no certainty as to how many vehicle trips would be reduced at affected intersections," the report states.

The public has until Nov. 26 to comment on the draft Environmental Impact Report, which was prepared by Rincon Consultants, Inc. for the city and released Oct. 10.

The City Council requested bids from interested companies for a new movie theater at the site of Parking Structure No. 3, which is city-owned property, in 2007. Its request called for a contemporary cinema, with ground-floor retail or restaurant space and underground parking.

In 2009, it picked AMC, which already operates three movie theaters in downtown. AMC is proposing 70,000 square feet of gross floor space, including 2,167 theater seats, 2,500 square feet of retail tenant space and 2,250 square feet of indoor restaurant/lounge space open to the public. The retail and restaurant spaces would primarily serve movie customers, the report states.

As part of the project, the AMC proposes to eliminate 1,597 theater seats from its other downtown locations. The Environmental Impact Report says the reduction could result in one or more of the existing theaters closing.

The project requires a development agreement with the City Council because it would exceed the zone's building size restrictions. The concessions to be offered in exchange will be negotiated later.

Send the city your feedback by writing to Roxanne Tanemori, senior planner, by 5:30 p.m. Nov. 26, 2012.

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Gary Kavanagh October 18, 2012 at 09:28 AM
Not mentioned in this story is parking garage 6 on 2nd street is being rebuilt at I believe nearly twice it's prior capacity, a move decided in large part in anticapitation of the parking being replaced by theatre development at garage 3. Many here are jumping to the conclusion that none of the spaces lost to accommodate the theatre are being replaced, which is not true. I always find it amazing & saddening how controversial it is to ever build more housing for people to live in, but it's always cries to build more & more housing for cars & throwing screaming fits at the suggestion of replacing land used on parking with a businesses or a mix of uses that will create jobs & add to our economy or housing opportunities. Lastly, given our moment in human history at the brink of significant climate change & the prospect of many finite resources reaching their peak production soon (or already have), & D grade in the US on much of our critical infrastructure by our civil engineers, while other nations lap us on energy efficiency, anyone who thinks our most pressing public infrastructure concern is to expand parking capacity for more cars, is completely & utterly out of touch with the long term needs of young Americans & the generation to follow.
Jenna Chandler (Editor) October 18, 2012 at 02:28 PM
Thanks, Gary. The report takes into consideration the rebuild and expansion of Parking Structure No. 6. So even with the additional spaces, it forecasts more traffic and the "cruising" issue.
Ted Winterer October 18, 2012 at 03:55 PM
I'm a big fan of Monica Bey's idea #2. In fact, when the AMC project came before the Planning Commission I argued that a better site for it would be 5th and Arizona: easy access from the 10 Freeway off 5th Street, get people to park once and then walk through downtown, add some street life to the eastern part of downtown and draw congestion away from the 2nd-4th Street core. Sadly, none of my colleagues on the Commission went for the idea. www.tedforcouncil.com
Glenn E Grab October 18, 2012 at 04:47 PM
Gary, you've got to be kidding....even after the garage is expanded there will be a shortage of parking...
jamie October 18, 2012 at 06:12 PM
In a way I like Monica's idea for putting the theater at 5th & Arizona. However because of the traffic congestion constantly on 4th street I (and it seems many locals like me) use 5th street to cross to north Santa Monica. It's just as easy to access off the freeway but less people use that street. Adding a theater there would make traffic horrible on both streets. What I'm wondering is why they don't leave the parking structure and remodel the existing AMC theater at 3rd & Arizona? There's no need for an additional theater on the promenade, just a nicer one.
Glenn E Grab October 18, 2012 at 06:47 PM
either that or collaberate with the Laemelle Theatre, build a new theatre there with a parking structure
Cin October 18, 2012 at 09:25 PM
I completely agree with you! I already did my mail in vote and did not vote for one current member. All new! Throw out all these current members who making our life more miserable here in Santa Monica everyday. No parking, way too much traffic, oh and a new so-called name "Silicon Beach"., since that brought un that new computer tenant.
Gary Kavanagh October 18, 2012 at 10:09 PM
Glenn, I prefer to think of it in terms of an excess of cars than a shortage of parking. The Los Angeles region, Santa Monica included devotes more land use and resources to parking cars than just about any human settlement on planet earth, with Downtown LA having the most car parking space density of a city area anywhere, including much bigger cities. The amount of real estate devoted to no other purpose but to store automobiles is staggering is Santa Monica, and I am quite happy the new park will be exchanging what was an underutilized surface lot for open space for all to enjoy. 15-20 years from now, when gasoline prices relative to income will likely make the recent run up look cute, we'll be wondering what the hell we were doing building so much infrastructure for car storage in recent decades while our resource base of cheaply extractable fossil fuels ticked a slow decline year over year. The US VMT (vehicle miles traveled) stopped growth and dipped into modest decline in 2008. Growth of car culture is over, it's still big, traffic still a mess, but the growth is over. If we experience a new peak beyond 2008 I expect it to be short lived and a bumpy but ongoing slow decline after. Not even during the 70's oil embargoes did driving growth stop as long as what we are presently experiencing in the United States. (Source: Calculated Risk from US DOT data) http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-ZGBty08LimY/UAxMBec2nbI/AAAAAAAAOQ4/1H-fc4M6n-s/s1600/VehicleMilesRollingMay2012.jpg
Jill October 18, 2012 at 10:21 PM
And what about the shops and restaurants left behind on third street??? And what are the plans to surround the new movie screens with more commercial development?. I have lived in Santa Monica for 30 yrs. I can't shop for clothes because anything over size ten is an anomoly. I go to the Westside center, for clothes and movies. I live on Ocean Park and the only times I cross Olympic is to go to my dentist and UCLA. It is long overdue for a pubilshed audit of S.M.C.C. How do citizens demand an audit of their government?.
Brenda Barnes October 18, 2012 at 11:56 PM
I am so disgusted by the way some newcomers--not all of them, just the ones on the City Council--are so prone to change everything. When you see the changes we have seen, it's heartbreaking. Listening to some wannabe like Gleam Davis say how nice the wide sidewalks are in Boston, or Pam O'Connor talk about the skyscrapers in Chicago makes me want to vomit right on them as the first Bush did on the Japanese ambassador (and I'd pretend it was the flu, too!). I just want to tell them the I-10 goes east if they love those cities so much, but we liked SM the way it was before they arrived and started "improving" it to fit their elitist East Coast taste, or whatever is the problem they have that causes them not to see the good here. I do want to say I agree with Gary that the waste of space for cars in SM is awful, but the solution to that is real planning for solving that problem, not making it worse the way this proposal for the movie complex would.
Brenda Barnes October 19, 2012 at 05:50 AM
I am a native Californian educated in public schools through a doctorate at UCLA. I am married to a Cambridge University educated urban planner. I don't need Gleam Davis to tell me what a city should look like, if what she has voted for is an example, and I don't need Shari Davis with her inability to speak a sentence without using jargon and talking down to the audience to tell me what I would know I needed if only I knew as much as she does. Neither do I need Terry O'Day to call himself a professional environmentalist but vote for any development that comes before the Council. I know what I need from the City Council. Santa Monica for Santa Monicans, not tourists or developers or assuring councilmembers' consulting and Board jobs or another so-called public office in the future.
Brenda Barnes October 19, 2012 at 06:02 AM
I agree with Jill. An audit would be a great idea. Did you know, for example, that every time we get a new city manager the City loans him (always a him, so far) over a million dollars to buy a house north of Montana? It's in the deal that he has to refinance and pay off the loan when he leaves employment, but so far we still have a new city manager every 10 or fewer years. Why is that? Why don't we get someone who is committed to SM and stays, as we have? I've lived here 32 years too. I went off traveling the world for 12 years after I retired, but kept my home at Village Trailer Park and paid the space rent all that time, even when no one in the family was living there and it was empty for years at a time, because this is home, forever, for me and for my grandchildren. For their entire lives, they have known our home will be theirs when we move on. My granddaughter is on the Samohi Girls' Varsity basketball team for her fourth year this year, the only one on the team who was on it as a freshman, and is team captain for the second year, the first time in history anyone remembers someone was captain two years. Santa Monica is not just one city like many others to her, as it isn't to me. You just don't sell out your one and only hometown.
Glenn E Grab October 19, 2012 at 04:03 PM
Gary, global waming not withstanding, you can lay a big part of the blame on our moronic, greedy LA City Council, who funded the rail lines(Blue, Green, Gold, Red, etc) and didn't allow them to go to or from LAX or the beach, the two biggest destinations in LA, forcing people to drive their cars, unless they wanted to make transfers to cabs or busses...
j pena October 19, 2012 at 06:02 PM
We don't need this, there are plenty of theaters already. How sold out is the city council to add to our traffic nightmares? We all need to vote for slow growth candidates, the problem is figuring out who they are. The current city council is in bed with developers or have big shiny ideas that don't benefit residents. Do locals use those theaters? Not really, sorry we need things we can really USE like an expanded Farmer's Market and LESS TRAFFIC from movie goers.
JohnCySmith.com October 19, 2012 at 10:16 PM
J Pena, I am one of the "Responsible Growth" candidates you seek... So is Ted Winterer, Richard McKinnon and Bob Seldon. You can learn more about me at my website: http://johnsmithsmcc.com/
Brenda Barnes October 19, 2012 at 11:05 PM
J Pena, I was just writing on the same subject after another article--the one about the developers' SuperPAC supporting the Davises and O'Day, as you said the bedmates of any developer. After three years almost fulltime on this problem--as we worked on stopping Village Trailer Park closure, my urban planner husband and I, a retired California (and even SM) real estate lawyer--it comes down to first narrowing the field, and then who you believe. Only six viable candidates (Gomez says he's in the race just for his heart) say they will not approve whatever development the staff report approves (which is all of them), and whatever fits in LUCE, which is the developers' dream General Plan elements they adopted designating the entire industrial area (and all of downtown) for tripling and quadrupling height and square footage, plus ground-floor retail and two levels of subterranean garages--and even hotels--in all kinds of residential and industrial neighborhoods. The excuse was that with light-rail coming we were going to become transit oriented. So why all the parking??? It just makes no planning sense, to say the least. It is also unlawful because all the development, even downtown because of the traffic, congestion, air pollution, and noise aspects, hits the poor and minority areas of the south and east parts of town far more than it does the richer, whiter areas. LUCE doesn't even put a bike path there, between 11th and 26th streets north of Montana.
Brenda Barnes October 19, 2012 at 11:06 PM
However, LUCE has a lot of contradictory goals, so the problem (and the solution) is whichever goals are chosen to be used in individual cases will determine what's done. That is why which candidates are elected makes all the difference. People can decide however they want to, given the current framework (which is why it is unlawful, but we're trying to figure out who to vote for, not discuss legalities). So to finally get to the answer, John C. Smith, Armen Markelians, Bob Seldon, and Jon Mann all said they are not taking developer money and are against development that adversely affects residents. (I like that their last initials could also stand for Santa Monica for Santa Monicans!) Ted Winterer says he will not approve a project that causes new car trips (one of the LUCE goals). Richard McKinnon says he's for "deep green" environmental goals. The latter two are suspect to me because they both voted yes as members of the Planning Commission to send the Village Trailer Park development agreement to the City Council, but they both disavowed their votes afterward. That's the trouble with this. When you have people who have already been in office, you can see how they voted. That disqualifies Gleam Davis and Terry O'Day, plus Shari Davis who has aligned herself with them.
Brenda Barnes October 19, 2012 at 11:07 PM
However, even Richard Bloom--the developers' lapdog of all such creatures--said before he was elected that he was for "smart growth" only, and he actually filed a lawsuit against that three-block square Ralphs Market development from 20th to Cloverfield and Colorado to Olympic. So people say one thing, but when they get in they get "educated" by the staff and oldtimers on the Council that the only way to keep growing the City is with developers' fees and higher taxes from development. So I think we have to specifically question these people who sound good about what their plans are to run the City without developers' money. I know Armen Markelians has a plan, about using our sun, wind, and waves to create energy and sell it so the City becomes self-sustaining. He's an environmental engineer and also has a method of evaluating development that tells whether it has adverse impacts and would approve only net zero impact developments. So he's far and away the best on the score of specific plans. Jon Mann has been running 20 years on stopping development, and Bob Seldon stopped development both in WLA and SM already. So I think those three plus John C. Smith, because he's such a leader on listening to the community and being grassroots, are the four (and I'm not saying that because of their initials). I wouldn't be crushed if Winterer and/or McKinnon got in instead of two of these four I prefer, since with McKeown, only three of the four new people make a majority.
j pena October 20, 2012 at 12:45 AM
Thanks very much for this information John. I wonder if you will attend the Wilmont meeting tomorrow about Miramar? It's at the Library at 10:30am. I am not yet a member but the idea of a massive hotel without adequate parking or environmental, city impact studies concerns me. As does the design, it's ugly, and it will have over a hundred expensive condos and that changes the feeling of the neighborhood. I hope it's not too late to put pressure on that situation or we'll have a permanent eyesore at Wilshire and Ocean.
Brenda Barnes October 20, 2012 at 10:31 AM
J Pena, Is this Saturday you're referring to? Is that meeting open? I read they'd been having some trouble about elections or who the Board is or something, caused by the current Board's supporting the Miramar expansion and people being so upset they put in a new Board. I think that's an example of how angry all this overdevelopment--and just ridiculous arrogance of the City Council--have made people. But I don't know if that meeting is a place anything can be discussed.
j pena October 20, 2012 at 10:48 PM
Hi Brenda, yes the meeting was open to all but only members vote. The current chair Valerie who had all the newly elected board's memberships rescinded was in the minority on all votes, something like 40 to 3 each time, and ALL of them got their memberships back and are back on the board. The group voted to reverse the previous approval and support of the Miramar expansion so great strides were made today. McKinnon spoke and gave updates and he's really well informed and I will vote for him for City Council for sure.
JohnCySmith.com October 21, 2012 at 08:22 AM
J Pena, Sorry I missed your mention of the Wilmont meeting... I was out canvassing and knocking on doors most of Saturday...(yes, real candidates still get a lot of votes that way) I received a full-color brochure in the mail this week touting the "benefits" of the Miramar "renovation"... Call me Mr. Responsible Growth, but I don't think 120 luxury condos will benefit people who live here. How about 120 housing units that people like teachers, police officers and firefighters can afford? Now THAT would be the definition of "public benefit". I also wonder why a project that is three times as high as the zoning for that parcel ever gets past the "float up" stage. Finally, just want to say it's great how so many people have chimed in on this thread with your passion, intelligence and great ideas. Hopefully, we will all have a Council which will actually listen...
Cin October 22, 2012 at 02:18 AM
I so agree. Throw them all out! It's all about what you can do for me, then I'll do this for you. I'm so sick and tired of this council being run by the developers! Traffic, traffic, traffic, traffic, high buildings, no parking, no parking, more elite stores that are almost always empty. I think that just the tip of the iceberg. I love driving by that trailer park, it so quaint. More expensive condos are not needed. There are a lot out there already or there are a bunch of lots I've seen where they're supposed to be built and now just ugly fences. That's because the people who purchased them are unable to build for some reason? Hum?????
Brenda Barnes October 22, 2012 at 02:37 AM
Hi J Pena, Great news. I don't know ANY of the Wilmont people involved, as far as I know. But anyone who approved the Miramar expansion has really got to be kidding, at least. I won't suggest any of their other possible reasons for doing so, except to mention that we here at Village Trailer Park who have been meeting every Sunday 3-6 PM since Feb 26 for potluck and dividing up work to stop threatened closure of the Park have learned a lot in those over 100 hours together. One of those things is to judge not on what people say, but on what they do. For instance, we have a faction right here in the Park who claim to be against closure of the Park but came up on their own--in return for no concession whatever--with a plan to give up half of the Park. With friends like those, who needs enemies? Same with completely changing the character of the Miramar, besides greatly expanding it. I also wonder if people in general realize the City is planning to close the Calif Incline at the SAME TIME the construction on the Miramar is planned!!!! Things like that could not be made up. The reason such ridiculous scenarios occur is the City is in bed with EVERY developer, so all of them want their projects done while their friends are still in. Apparently they have noticed eventually citizens take over and throw all the bums out.
j pena October 22, 2012 at 02:50 AM
Hi John, I got that flyer too and it certainly made the Fig Tree look huge, but the truth is as we know it will be dwarfed by the massive hotel structure and the tower for 150 luxury condos. It's clear that the developers are trying to hoodwink the community by leaving out the fact that there is no free parking for employees - they'll be cruising the neighboring streets for free parking - and there is no mention of the luxury condos or the New York style disco being planned. Thanks for being so responsive and I will keep in touch with your campaign. You have a real edge by using social media, the biggest problem is that people don't know the issues and much about the candidates. Is the facebook site the best way? Do you have an email? I'm very happy to see your lawn signs and hope people in Santa Monica get the word about this very important council election coming up. Brenda you are so RIGHT that they want to turn Santa Monica into some glizty urban area for instance the Miramar expansion includes many storefronts - more expensive things that Santa Monicans cannot afford. Our town should not be turned into a tourist stop, we have too much history for that - I'm also California born and have lived here for 25 years.
Brenda Barnes October 24, 2012 at 01:12 AM
I like Monica Bey's idea of remodeling the Sears store to keep its facade and go green with that enormous parking lot. A permanent farmers' market so streets are not blocked twice a week sounds great, too. The store could even be kept where it is with building over it, as at Grand Central Station. All kinds of things would work, but another theater, AND on 4th Street, AND with less parking? Just about the worst combination conceivable. It is another iteration of what I see constantly in SM--developers sniff out a property and then try to shoehorn an idea of overdevelopment into a totally inappropriate space. The Council agrees because this Council always agrees with any development that will bring money into their coffers to spend on things like $55 MILLION for two parks between City Hall and the beach. Actually, the true purpose of everything this Council does is to guarantee their own future employment and campaign contributions. Corruption that cannot be believed without thorough investigation plagues us. I say throw all of them out and start over. John C. Smith, Armen Markelians, Bob Seldon and Jon Mann all sound good. (How appropriate their initials make Santa Monica for Santa Monicans!) I don't know if Ted Winterer and Richard McKinnon can be trusted given their association with the current corrupt Council, but they sound good too. From some group we need specific plans for a livable City again, not one for tourists and developers.
Nan Jefferies November 05, 2012 at 10:27 PM
There's a detailed story on the planned development of the AMC on Fourth Street in the fall 2012 issue of "THE BEAT," the newsletter of Downtown Santa Monica, Inc. If you can't find it online and are interested in what's going on in the downtown area, sign up to receive a copy by writing Downtown Santa Monica, Inc., 1351 Third Street Promenade, Suite 2012, Santa Monica, CA 90401 or call 310.393.8355.
Brenda Barnes November 06, 2012 at 01:33 PM
This is the link, and it's pages 9-12: http://downtownsm.com/sites/default/files/Fall%20Beat%202012_0.pdf This is obviously a whitewashed, pro-development view of it. The truth is far different. The Draft EIR says it will significantly increase the traffic problems at all the affected intersections--which is everything around it and all the way to the freeway and east, so most of the City except the white, rich area north of Montana--and that such worsening is unavoidable. One would have thought, before watching the current Council approve development after development where the EIRs said that, that such a finding would mean change the project significantly, or it won't be approved. Not so in SM today, unless and until the Council changes. Nothing stops Davis, Bloom, O'Day, Holbrook, and O'Connor from approving a development. They are bought and paid for developer lapdogs, with no concern whatever for residents.
Two Cents December 27, 2012 at 04:25 AM
The theaters on the promenade should be renovated instead of being relocated to other areas of the downtown. This should happen in conjunction with a full renovation of the promenade itself. Other destinations like the Westfield mall in Century City, the Grove, and the mall in Marina del Rey have been updated and have become more enjoyable. The focus in downtown should be to catch up with these destinations by improving our existing amenities aesthetically, facilitating parking, improving existing services and adding new desirable services (convenient valet, kids corner, car detail, shoe shine, etc). Moving a theater from one part of downtown to another merely shifts traffic without adding much to the enjoyment of the area. It would successfully boost real estate values in other areas of the city by stimulating higher rents there, but it could leave dark storefronts where the theaters were once located with consequently declining land values.
Brenda Barnes December 27, 2012 at 09:50 AM
I agree that there should be no theater on 4th Street, but how often are things going to be rebuilt anyway? First we had to have Third Street completely changed and people say now it's the pearl of the city or something. Then along comes someone with an idea to serve food at the movies and all of a sudden we have to "update" to do that? Why not just let different places be different? Are we in some kind of contest to see who's newest? I don't think so.


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