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Santa Monica Now Juggling 32 Development Applications

Building apartments at AMF Bayshore Lanes is among the latest development proposals.

In the final weeks of 2012, developers submitted applications to the city for seven new projects—a majority of them for mixed-use apartment and commercial buildings, including at the decades-old AMF Bayshore Lanes.

The end-of-the-year climb brings the number of development applications awaiting city approval to 32. The agreements give developers the rights to build beyond the city's size and zoning restrictions in exchange for providing "community benefits," like money to fund street improvements.

When city planning staffers faced a fewer number of 26 applications at the beginning of December, they said they couldn't keep up and asked the City Council to put in some new regulatory processes that would slow things down.

"The processing and review of the large number of pending Development Agreement applications... and the additional seven Development Agreement applications... have added to the challenge," said Planning Director David Martin.

The council is expected to make a decision on Martin's request on Tuesday night. For more on his proposal, see: Santa Monica to Consider Slowing Down Development.

The new applications are for mixed-use projects at 1560 Lincoln Blvd., 1613 Lincoln Blvd, 1637 Lincoln Blvd., 1641 Lincoln Blvd., 234 Pico Blvd., and 601 Colorado Ave.

At the bowling alley at 234 Pico Blvd., GRF Portfolio Properties has proposed a two-story project with 20,000 square feet of commercial space and 91 apartments. The early plans call for retaining a portion of the existing building, according to city planner Tony Kim.

"Whether it's going to stay a bowling alley... that I'm no sure about," Kim said.

The seventh new application is for a Mini Cooper dealership at 1400 Santa Monica Blvd.

The map above shows all 32 applications. Yellow pins, such as the site of the proposed Mini Cooper dealership, mark those projects that require Environmental Impact Reports.

Dan Charney January 05, 2013 at 05:51 AM
I clearly do not understand why the city demands 'environmental studies"- they do not listen to the results very often, or seem to care one bit- or they would stop the Miramar immediately- along with all other large projects set to further ruin downtown SM and jam even more- the eastern area- Really Mr's Martin and Kim- what kind of planning is going on here? If there was any real planning - the first thing that should be planned is David Martin stepping down and bringing in a serious environmentally creative planner. His style is "act serious" and do as you please- one more mess after another.
mimi January 05, 2013 at 05:13 PM
Looks like a dog & pony show to cover themselves, legally.
suzie suz January 05, 2013 at 05:49 PM
I do not understand why the city demands 'environmental studies"- they do not listen to the results very often, or seem to care one bit- or they would stop the Miramar immediately- along with all other large projects set to further ruin downtown SM
Jasmyn K. January 05, 2013 at 07:37 PM
Santa Monica = SELLOUTS!! I'm a 3rd generation Santa Monican. My granparents graduated from St. Monica's and my parents from Samohi. This place is going to shit. All they care about is building up and changing the city. Raising taxes and handing out parking tickets. Can't even stick up for 60 year traditions. Most of the people who were born and raised here can't even afford to live here. People use to live here for the simple life near the beach. STOP RUINING SM!
Brenda Barnes January 06, 2013 at 03:47 AM
They have to have EIRs, but the way they do them they are meaningless, just a check-the-box procedural step. Can you imagine 91 apts at 4th and Pico? They'll reduce that to 80 and have 20 be low-income and act like that is a real accommodation to the traffic problem.
Jonathan Friedman January 06, 2013 at 06:23 AM
"Environmental studies" are required by the California Environmental Quality Act, not the city.
Jack January 06, 2013 at 09:47 PM
More overbuilt, traffic congested problems for S.M. Where are all these new residents going to park? This City is becoming more and more crowded, polluted, and unlivable. Is anyone saying "no" to these big developers? What happened to my city?
Liz McDannel Bell January 07, 2013 at 12:57 AM
First, thanks the map of proposed development agreements. Very handy. Second, Jonathan is correct--CEQA requires environmental studies, called EIRs in states, and EISs at the national level (under the National Environmental Policy Act). A thought: While we're thinking of environmental impacts, why not add access to sea breezes as an environmental, even a health impact that must be considered? Think about the taller buildings proposed for the transit district and downtown. They will have an impact on everyone inland from Ocean by blocking the cool, cleansing sea breeze that we all love and rely on in SM as part of our quality of life. No development agreement can mitigate this impact. The only way to insure we all have access to Santa Monica Bay's breeze is not to build tall buildings in the west side of the city. A sea breeze impact could be part of a Health Impact Assessment, now being required in more and more governments. Clean air certainly is part of good health. Let's get one in Santa Monica. Good idea?
Jonathan Friedman January 07, 2013 at 11:59 AM
Hi Brenda. Have you read an EIR?
Babs January 07, 2013 at 04:51 PM
I can't wait to retire and get out of this town. I will drive farther east or south to go to a store that is Santa Monica instead of dealing with the traffic between PCH to Lincoln. But maybe this is the SM's government's Master Plan to get rid of all of the old timers and move in newer and more beautiful money. We might be their constituency now, but in their future if all goes to their plan we won't be. Just look at the reconstitution of the mall, tourists only, locals need not enter.
Brenda Barnes January 07, 2013 at 06:15 PM
Hi Jonathan, My husband is an urban planner with a masters' degree from Cambridge University and 31 years' experience as an urban planner on two continents, so he does most of our EIR work. However, I personally have written about a thousand pages on the Village Trailer Park Development Agreement. I sent in comments responding to the Notice of Preparation in April 2010 and have been writing about it pretty much fulltime since then. I read all four EIRs on VTP, as well as did a word-by-word comparison (with the help of software) for those and the two done for adjacent properties to the west. That is how we discovered whereas the City spent hundreds of pages on soil hazards at the adjacent properties, they said it was "not necessary" for VTP, which is in a slightly worse liquefaction danger zone than those other two. This is the evidence the "proposed developer" of VTP is just a land speculator, and the City knew it. None of the proposed developments is actually proposed for this property. The idea was get rid of the residents, sell the land with permits to a real developer, and then come up with a compromise plan with Rent Control..
Jonathan Friedman January 07, 2013 at 06:23 PM
Brenda, if that's the case, you should know that an EIR is not "a meaningless, just a check-the-box procedural step."
Brenda Barnes January 07, 2013 at 06:29 PM
Wonderful idea, Liz. The general category "air quality" and other categories would cover the loss of the ocean breeze, but in the particular context of a beach city, it has a different meaning from that in the average place. We will research the law on ocean breeze for the next objection. I had a professor for a seminar on law and urban planning at UCLA Law School, the late John Hagman, who was actually a resident of SM too, who said the only way to accommodate all the needs for housing and fair access to the ocean in SM is allow 100-story skyscrapers every quarter of a mile, stairstepped back. That way there would be more housing, so it would not be so expensive, but the people away from the beach would still have access, no constant shadows, no blocking of the breeze, no blocking of the view, no wind tunnel effect, etc. Instead of that or some other truly intelligent planning, SM acts like limiting heights to five stories is a benefit to us. Of course, with any development there are traffic and all the other impacts to consider, which the EIR is supposed to do. Here we have high liquefaction risk along the oceanfront, too. However, the Planning Department claims with proper building and design, buildings can safely be built on that now. In any event, there needs to be far more comprehensive planning than there is. Not less.
Brenda Barnes January 07, 2013 at 06:36 PM
Absolutely, Babs. It's all follow-the-money now. However, I think it isn't too late. People were focused on federal and state issues in the recent election, so they voted in incumbents who had made it very clear they would vote for any development that would give them a cut, so they'd have money to spend for projects like $55 million for two parks in front of City Hall. There is actually a lot of opposition to all this development, so we are organizing first to delay all these development agreements and then for 2014, to get seven City Council members who are on the side of residents, not developers and tourists. Armen Merkelians, one of the candidates this time, is a civil environmental engineer who has a plan to sell renewable energy--using our sun, wind, and waves--and make the City self-sustaining that way so we can have no more development unless it is actually beneficial to everyone. Maybe we will get it done in time to keep you and some other longtime residents!
Brenda Barnes January 07, 2013 at 06:50 PM
It is not supposed to be that, Jonathan. The courts are very clear that an EIR is supposed to precede the decision, inform the public about known impacts, give enough information so the public can intelligently comment on the impacts and shape decision-making, propose how to actually mitigate impacts where possible, and consider No Project alternatives where impacts are significant and mitigation is not possible. My comment was how SM uses EIRs is just as a procedural check-the-box step. It's the same with public meetings. They are all set up to be rigged charades, where it is impossible to say anything that could have an impact, and at a stage where all the decisions have already been made. My comment was not about what EIRs are supposed to be. It was exactly the opposite. That is why we have prepared a legal case against destruction of our homes for three years now. It was hopeless to try to convince SM. The decision had been made in 2007, long before the EIR.
JohnCySmith.com January 07, 2013 at 07:28 PM
I want to encourage everyone writing here to attend Tuesday night's City Council meeting where the explosion of DA's will be topic one. And Wednesday night the Planning Commission is scheduled to take up the Downtown Specific Plan, where most of these DA's are being sought. The bottom line is this: The pace and scale of development in Santa Monica is changing our city and the projects being built do not provide enough benefits to people who live here, or even work here and want to live here. Too much, too fast, wrong projects. Over-development is bringing us the traffic congestion all of us decry. Now City Hall is finally waking up to the problem, and even the City Manager is suggesting a slowdown. Thousands .of new shoe box size apartments going for $1700 a month and up is not the kind of housing we need here. But that is what so many of these projects produce. City Hall must either require developers to build housing that benefits people who live here and work here, or not approve the DA's. We need workforce housing that people with jobs can afford. Either require developers to build what we need, and include all costs of traffic mitigation, or do not let them build. Period.
Brenda Barnes January 07, 2013 at 11:03 PM
You are so right, John. And activism does work. We just got notice this morning the land speculator MARC LUZZATTO of Welk Real Estate (yes, nice old Lawrence Welk, being associated with such obscenity!), who's been trying for over six years to bulldoze our homes at Village Trailer Park, withdrew his application for a Rent Control removal permit again, for the third time now. Because we have fought this every step of the way, it has not been easy the way he and his co-conspirators at the City planned. We need to stop the COUNCIL from promoting all these awful developments. Residents should not have to mount their own legal defenses. Nonetheless, at least when we do, we can win, so people should keep fighting.
Wendy Frederick January 11, 2013 at 08:33 PM
Oh Dear!!! MORE DEVELOPMENTS COMING! UGH!! Take my word for it - you attend meetings with the City Council, and no one listens. They're forced to hear you out, but their minds are already made up to continue building. We can't stop them - no one can. Pretty soon, Santa Monica will be so built up and congested that no one will even want to come here. I've also been told that crime is on the rise in Santa Monica, too. I heard this on a radio station. I'm telling you - it makes me very sad to see how our City counsel is allowing all this to happen. No one will ever understand how bad it's gotten here, unless you've lived in Santa M. for a long time and can compare how it used to be, to how it is now. I'm afraid, the good old days are over!!
Brenda Barnes January 11, 2013 at 11:15 PM
You're so right, Wendy, but a lot of people believe anything connected--however loosely--to "progress" and especially anything "transit-oriented"--has to be great. I think every development should be looked at on its merits and on the cumulative impacts with all the other projects people are building that LUCE allows without any review. That is a ticking time bomb. Just increasing units by doubling them, as LUCE allows without any of us knowing about it, and changing rental housing to luxury condos, will destroy the City. We need to recall everyone on the Council who voted for LUCE--that is everyone except McKeown, Winterer and Vasquez--and get back to some basic principles. LUCE says no new car trips, but there is no way to enforce it, so it is just ignored. Same with preserve existing neighborhoods. There need to be priorities that cannot be violated. Like who would ever have thought anyone could choose developers over seniors by moving the Senior Center from an oceanview building in Palisades Park to a windowless overcrowded room on 4th Street? And putting in luxury condos at the Miramar at the same time the California Incline is closed? Stuff like that is happening every day.
Lou Averbach February 22, 2013 at 03:59 PM
More people need to be informed, how many know the amount of development that is being scheduled. Where do people get involved? Is anyone circulating a petition?

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