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Santa Monica Council Approves MINI Car Dealership, with a Cafe

Phil Brock For Council 2014

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and MarkHarding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP  law firm
Harding, Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

Pacific Park, Santa Monica Pier

Santa Monica Convention and Visitors BureauWhen one lives in a city as breathtakingly beautiful and unique as Santa Monica, inevitably that city will be shared with visitors.

By Daniel Larios
Staff Writer

July 10, 2014 -- The Santa Monica City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved a development agreement for a proposed 33,400-square-foot MINI car dealership on Santa Monica Boulevard and 14th Street.

The project proposed by the Quinn Automotive Group would include a 6,144 square feet of sales floor and offices, a 507-square-foot café, 21 service bays and 135 parking spaces. 

“Given the totality of the history regarding this project, they [Quinn Automotive Group] have acted in good faith,” said Councilmember Gleam Davis.

“They have been responsive to public comments at the various public meetings,” she added. “They’ve reached out to individuals in the community.”

The motion was made by Councilmember Tony Vasquez and seconded by Councilmember Ted Winterer.

There were five members of the public who spoke on the item.

The first speaker, resident Elaine Antonio, claimed that the demolition of the Unocal gas station to pave the way for the dealership drove her out of her apartment.

“I am here because I am asking the City Council to help me receive fairness from the Quinn Automotive Group and to be made whole,” Antonio told the council.

Antonio said she’s been trying to settle with Quinn since February and was told by its litigation attorney Gary Klaus that if she filed a lawsuit, that they would never settle with her.

“Just this morning, they finally agreed to a mediation as Mr. Quinn said I was asking for a ‘modest amount and he does not want to litigate,’” said Antonio. 

“They ultimately offered me less than one third of the very modest amount I requested to be made whole from being forced out my home of 20 years due to their demolition which broke multiple city ordinances”

The allegations carried weight with some council members, who brought the matter up with Paula Larmore, a representative of project.

“Anybody who comes to our town and wants to run a business had better learn that we take our residents seriously,” said Councilmember Kevin McKeown. 

“We want them respected and if you’re getting phone calls from upset residents, I hope you’ll return them.”

“And if you’re a residents who’s upset and you’re not getting a response, I’m in the phone book, I’ll be happy to talk to you,”  McKeown added.

Most council members were sympathetic to Antonio’s situation, but were wary to become involved in the dispute.

“It sounds as that dispute is set to be settled in another forum and it’s not for us to make fact finding about who is right or wrong in connection to this,” said Councilmember Gleam Davis. 

“The question before us is whether or not this is a good use of land in our City.”

The other speakers during public comment section supported building the dealership.

“I think we owe it to ourselves to start thinking about new and interesting ways we do business in our city,” said Jennifer Southern. “This is a good example.

“By keeping both the sales and service departments inside the walls of the building you make what might have been a noisy and dusty waste of space into basically a retail store with a café, sort of like the Barnes and Noble on the 3rd Street Promenade.”

All agreed that the environmentally friendly aspects of the project were excellent, as well as the proposed café in the building.

“I really like the idea of an indoor car dealership that sells fuel efficient cars,” said Emma McKaren from the Mid-City Neighborhood. “And I really like the café.”

Also included in the proposal were community benefit provisions, which include local hiring, $20,000 to the Historic Preservation Fund and $189,424.74 to be used by the City for transportation infrastructure improvements.

Other benefits are widened sidewalks on Santa Monica Boulevard, an internship at the service department, LEED “platinum” certification and the installation of two charging stations for electric vehicles with an option for two more.

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