Santa Monica Lookout
Santa Monica's Bergamot Area Plan Discussion Raises Questions About Traffic, Green Space
By Jason Islas
September 10, 2013 -- The City Council Tuesday will consider adopting a plan to recreate Santa Monica's formerly industrial Bergamot Area as a residential and creative arts district, but some residents are worried about what that means for traffic.
After postponing a decision on whether to adopt the 230-page plan to overhaul the 142.5-acre neighborhood around the future Expo Light Rail station at Bergamot Station twice -- once in July and again in August -- the Council will take a third crack at it.
And while the plan has been generally well-received, because Bergamot is one of two neighborhoods -- along with the Downtown -- City planners have designated as places suitable for development, some residents will likely air their concerns Tuesday night.
“Resident mails have been rolling in by the dozens,” said Councilmember Kevin McKeown in an email to The Lookout Monday.
And traffic, he said, was the focus of most of those mails.
“Since the draft was released, we have learned that the likely workers in a new Bergamot/Creative Arts district need housing more affordable than the draft contemplated,” he said. “If we fail to provide housing the new workers can actually live in, we are creating ever more commuters and therefore more traffic.”
McKeown said that the Council should “rethink rather than rush” the plan.
In April, the City Council directed staff to explore ways to encourage more housing that did not fit into the low-income category but was still affordable to those who would work in the Bergamot Area. (“Santa Monica City Council Wants More Affordable Housing in Bergamot,” April 12)
Since then, the Planning Commission gave the plan its near-unanimous seal of approval.
Only Commissioner Sue Himmelrich voted against recommending that the Council adopt the plan because she thought there wasn't a strong enough commitment to green space. (“Planning Commission Sends Bergamot Plan to Santa Monica City Council,” July 16)
But the fact that most of the land in the area is privately owned remains an obstacle.
Still, she isn't alone. Recreation and Parks Commissioner Phil Brock said, “There needs to be a distinct amount of viable public green space for parks codified in the plan.”
He went on to say, “There should be a series of public squares that are designated and created,” adding that developers should be required to donate money or land to those ends.
McKeown also brought up green space but dismissed the idea of building “scattered development-serving plazas.”
Also on Brock's mind was traffic, calling City planners' projections of the number of people who will use the coming Expo Light rail to commute “fanciful.”
While the Expo Light Rail currently runs from Downtown L.A. to Culver City, by 2016, it will connect to Santa Monica and Bergamot station will be the first of three stops it makes in the bayside city.
Already, there are two major developments slated for the area: a 377 unit mixed-use development on the site of the Village Trailer Park and Texas-based developer Hines' 767,000 square-foot Bergamot Transit Village project which will go back before the Planning Commission later this week.
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