There were not enough answers to go around during the Santa Monica City Council's discussion of the Tuesday night's, but neither the council members nor the public commenters were bashful when it came to dishing out accusations at .
During the Council’s review of the Development Agreement proposal for the nearly 1-million-square-foot project, which would be located on the north side of Olympic Blvd. between 26th St. and Stewart St., the dialogue devolved rapidly, and by the time the discussions ceased, there was still plenty left to talk about.
The proceedings began with a lengthy staff report detailing the progress of an ongoing planning and design collaboration with Hines Interests, an effort dating back to 2009 that aims to create a mutually agreeable redevelopment plan for the old Papermate facility.
City staff and Hines Senior Vice President Collin Shepherd enumerated the proposal’s commitment and attention to goals for sustainability, pedestrian and vehicular traffic efficiency and metropolitan aesthetic and function, per the city’s .
The report indicated there are still a number of compromises and decisions to be made before the design will be anywhere near finalized, but even identifying such decision points proved to be a challenge for the six council members (and nearly 30 community commenters) present.
Under current plans, the mixed-use redevelopment is designed to maximize automobile and foot traffic to, from, around and through the transit village, drawing visitors from the to the facility’s planned commercial shops and office spaces.
Design features—including sidewalks 15-plus feet wide, a central interior walkway connecting the multi-building site’s destinations, stepped-back structures and restricted heights—meet some of the LUCE objectives for function, style and convenience, and the facility’s planned efficiencies as an all-in-one residential and commercial site appear to be well-suited for the city’s goals.
But the proposed plan was not received well, and many of the council members and community representatives insisted that it was insufficiently efficient and aesthetically inconsistent with Santa Monica standards.
Mayor Pro Tempore Gleam Davis raised concerns that the buildings' shapes and sizes, echoing staff concerns that the Hines proposal is too reliant on monolithic, rectangular shapes, and that the large space might be more aesthetically pleasing and more easily navigable by car if the design adhered to more of a city grid layout with five smaller buildings.
Other council members, including Kevin McKeown and Bobby Shriver, along with several members of the community audience, mentioned that vehicular traffic was also among their chief concerns. They noted the potential negative effect that the redeveloped site might have on peak-hours traffic along Olympic and throughout that part of Santa Monica.
McKeown ultimately urged the Council to direct staff to continue design revisions with Hines but insisted that any further action be delayed for further review.
“This location is key,” he said. “This is the cornerstone of the new Santa Monica, and I cannot go forward with this project given what I see as a lack of meaningful dialogue between the developer and the community.”
Citing campaign-finance reports, some members of the community who spoke during the public comment period pointed out that each of the council members—except McKeown and Shriver—had received donations of at least a few thousand dollars from Hines. Some suggested that the donations created a conflict of interest for the council members.
Council Members Bob Holbrook and Pam O’Connor took note of the comments and, on one occasion, directly engaged a speaker from the audience to refute claims that the integrity of their judgments on the proposal at hand might be compromised.
“I’m frankly getting a little tired of these accusations about what is undue influence,” O’Connor said.
None of the council members expressed an intention to abstain from voting or discussions when the council eventually revisits the issue.