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Santa Monica City Council Approves Development with No Parking  

By Jason Islas
Lookout Staff

December 14, 2011 -- Under a unique Development Agreement, the Santa Monica City Council voted Tuesday to require the developer of a Downtown housing project that provides no on-site parking to pay $125,000 for transit improvements

The development at Fourth Street and Broadway, which is composed of mostly small studio and one-bedroom units originally would have paid $175,000 to the City to help offset to cost of building bike lanes, the Esplanade project on Colorado Avenue, the Expo Light Rail line and other transit projects.

Staff agreed to reduce the fee to $125,000, still significantly higher than the $50,000 that the developer sought to pay.

Last month, the Planning Commission refused to budge on the "transit infrastructure fee," in part because the development will have no on-site parking and the hope is that most residents won't have cars.

“We think the smaller units will work better in having us attract residents who don't own vehicles,” Land Use Attorney Chris Harding told the Council Tuesday.

“We are agreeing to give priority to people without cars” as part of the DA, Harding said in response to several questions about how parking will be handled at the site.

Mayor Richard Bloom applauded the idea that the developer would seek out residents who don't have cars.

“This is an effort to achieve some sustainability goals,” Bloom said, adding that he wanted to know how the developer would verify whether a resident lied about not having a car to get an edge over other applicants.

Harding didn't offer a specific strategy, but he said that if that became a real problem, the developer would work with staff to come up with a solution.

The council and the Planning Commission have made it clear that they do not expect other similar developments with small units and that this is a unique case because of the lot's small size and location.

The design, by former Architectural Review Board Chair Michael Folonis, drew compliments from the dais Tuesday.

Mayor Pro Tem Gleam Davis said that though she doesn't usually like modern architecture, she liked Folonis' design. Council member Kevin McKeown praised the design for putting more space between the new building and the neighboring apartment building.

Council member Pam O'Connor agreed that Folonis' design was both interesting and “sensitive to the site.”

In September, architect David Forbes Hibbert proposed a design that was rejected by the Planning Commission.

The developer then hired Folonis to redesign the project, which was praised by the commission in November.

Davis thought the new design could be a good template for architectural design in the area.

“I think this is a good case study as we move forward with trying to determine how we're going to define design in the downtown area,” she said.

The design, like many of the new developments, is a mixed-use building, with the bottom floor occupied by a proposed restaurant.

Council member Shriver expressed shock at the proposed rent for one 360-square-foot studio unit. According to the staff report, the market rate is $1,750 a month, which Shriver called “mind-boggling.”

Bloom pointed out that the high rents are a result of a thriving housing market in Santa Monica.

The building will also include six affordable units that will rent at $747 a month, according to the staff report.


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