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Santa Monica City Council Narrowly Approves Bergamot Transit Village

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark

Harding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP  law firm
Harding, Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

Pacific Park, Santa Monica Pier

Santa Monica Convention and Visitors Bureau

By Jason Islas
Staff Writer

February 5, 2014 -- The Santa Monica City Council voted 4-to-3 Tuesday to approve the controversial Bergamot Transit Village after some minor tweaks to the project's affordable housing mix.

The Council rejected major changes to the 767,000 square-foot mixed-use project that would have shrunk the amount of office space proposed in favor of adding more housing.

Councilmembers cited concerns that dragging out the issue even longer could lead Texas-based developer Hines to walk away from the pending development agreement.

Those who eventually supported the project pointed to the fact that Hines could, without seeking Council permission, simply convert the current building -- the abandoned Papermate factory -- into office space and Santa Monica would lose out on 427 apartments located within walking distance from the future Expo light rail station and $32.2 million in community benefits to schools, parks and public streets over the next 55 years.

Instead, the Council opted to increase the affordability of some of the units earmarked for middle-income earners and require the Hines to meet stringent traffic reduction goals.

“We passed a Bergamot Area Plan and we passed the LUCE” both of which planned for commercial office space in the area, said Councilmember Gleam Davis, addressing objections by three Councilmembers that the project had too much office space as proposed.

Earlier in the evening, Davis had proposed changing the project slightly -- splitting it 50/50 between housing and commercial space instead of the current 55/45 split in favor of commercial -- as a compromise with those on the dais who wanted major reductions in the commercial space.

Davis offered her proposal after Councilmember Kevin McKeown floated a motion, supported by Vazquez and Winterer, to replace “all the commercial above the first floor with residential.”

O'Day backed Davis' proposal in the hopes that the compromise would bring over any of the three dissenting votes.

It soon became clear, however, that Davis' proposed change would delay further deliberations by weeks or longer and it wouldn't result in a change in the vote split.

Davis voted with Mayor Pam O'Connor, Mayor Pro Tem Terry O'Day and Councilmember Bob Holbrook to support the project mostly as-is.

McKeown, who voted against the final project along with Vazquez and Winterer, reiterated that he believed the project was too big with too little housing.

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