Santa Monica Lookout
Santa Monica Planning Commission to Continue Bergamot Discussion
By Jason Islas
February 20, 2013 -- After Planning Commissioners engaged in a six-hour discussion last week, the public will get to weigh in Wednesday on the complete draft of a plan to redesign the area immediately surrounding the first Santa Monica stop along the proposed Expo light rail line.
The Commission's response to the Bergamot Area Plan was “generally very positive,” said Chair Gerda Newbold, although there were concerns about how the 230-page document would specifically address housing mixes, parking and open space in the future arts district.
“I think it's also a little daunting because there are so many pieces to it,” Newbold said. “It's very important that we get it right.”
Aside from being the first westbound stop along the long-awaited rail line from Downtown Los Angeles, the Bergamot Area will become the city's arts district, with the Plan hoping to stimulate the growth of creative industries.
The Area also would be home to two significant mixed-use residential projects -- the East Village project at the site of the Village Trailer Park and the Bergamot Transit Village -- that are currently in planning limbo.
The Commission last week wanted to make sure that the plan, which must go to the City Council for approval, would spur a healthy a mix of housing units.
“This is an area where we really want families,” Newbold said, adding that the plan should encourage larger units, not just studio apartments.
The plan currently sets an minimum average size for units that would allow developers to choose how to allocate the space within their projects, City planners said.
Commissioners were also concerned about parking and its impact on traffic, with the number of parking spaces reaching nearly 5,000 if the area gets built out. There are currently 5,889 jobs in the area, according to the draft plan, and that number is expected to grow.
The Commission is likely to dwell more on parking Wednesday, addressing questions about pricing and “how to provide parking for people who want to use the light rail,” Newbold said.
Part of the problem, according to staff, is that the City doesn't own much land in the area, which means it cannot build parking or set aside any land for parks or open spaces, another of the Commission’s concerns.
The plan currently requires developers to include a certain amount of open space on site, but some Commissioners worried the result would be a hodgepodge of smaller spaces rather than larger parcels of open land.
Commissioner Jim Ries suggested that the Area Plan set an impact mitigation fee for developers in the area that could go to pay for the expansion of Stewart Park.
The Plan will go before the City Council in March and return again to the Planning Commission after it undergoes its California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) analysis.
“While the document looks very beautiful,” Ries said last Wednesday, “I have only scratched the surface of going through this, so I appreciate the fact that we're going to have another shot at this next week.”
The final plan is expected to go before the Council for approval this summer.
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