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Hines Project Squeaks Past Santa Monica Planning Commission, Heads to City Council

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark

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By Jason Islas
Staff Writer

December 6, 2013 -- Plans to develop the former Papermate factory site in Santa Monica’s Bergamot Area will move forward after the Planning Commission narrowly voted to recommend it for Council approval Wednesday.

The Commission discussed the proposed project -- three years in the making -- by Texas-based developer Hines for about five hours Wednesday night before eventually settling on a recommendation that was narrowly approved by a 4-to-3 vote.

While Commissioners Gerda Newbold, Amy Anderson, Jim Ries and Vice Chair Jason Parry cast the four votes in favor of the roughly 767,000 square-foot mixed-use development, their recommendation was not without caveats.

“The changes recommended by the Commission included, among other things, an increase in the number of affordable housing units and the reallocation of some funds,” said Planning Director David Martin.

Hines has proposed earmarking 76 of the 471 apartments and 27 work/live spaces to be rented below market rate.

The winning motion beat out three others, including one by Chair Jennifer Kennedy which called for Hines to scrap plans for a mixed-use project altogether.

Instead, Kennedy, who voted against the winning motion, wanted Hines to turn the 403,814 square feet earmarked as commercial space proposed into more residential units.

Planning Commissioner Sue Himmelrich proposed a motion that would have reduced the size of the project and decreased the amount of commercial space in favor of more residential units.

Himmelrich’s motion followed a recent push by Santa Monica’s powerful renters’ rights group to get Hines to develop more housing on the site, which will be adjacent to the future Expo Light rail station.

More housing, claimed Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights (SMRR), would generate less traffic since it would mean more people who work in Santa Monica could also live there. (“Santa Monica's Powerful Renters' Rights Group Wants More Housing at Bergamot Transit Village,” October 22)

Kennedy, who is also on the SMRR steering committee, said that low rents at the site would also help reduce traffic.

"We're talking about capturing retail workers and service workers as well,” she said. “And they won't have to be commuting to the area."

While the project size was a concern for some on the dais Wednesday, the current proposal is a significant reduction from the original proposal made in 2011.

Initial plans called for a development that would have been nearly one million square feet.

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