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|Transit Village Will Impair Transit, Residents Say|
By Gene Williams
December 10, 2010 -- A nearly 1-million-square-foot mixed-use development on Olympic Boulevard would add way too much traffic to Santa Monica’s already overburdened streets, residents say.
That is the overwhelming message City officials heard at a Wednesday night meeting to gather public comment on the Bergamot Transit Village Project, a proposed 7 ½ acres of offices, retail, residences and parking on an old industrial site formerly used by Papermate.
Wednesday’s comments will be used toward drafting an Environmental Impact Report (EIR), a preliminary step toward development of the project.
“The basic issue is that the traffic is already impossible,” said Don McCallum, whose concern was echoed by a dozen other residents at the Virginia Park meeting.
At the center of their objections is the scale of the project -- which would include buildings as high as 86 feet. Making matters worse, they say, are a number of other major developments pending nearby.
But perhaps the most surprising thing to come out during Wednesday’s meeting is that many of the residents, including McCallum, not only oppose the village’s proposed height and density, but also its plans to create a 1,961-car subterranean parking garage.
“The only solution toward less traffic is less parking,” McCallum said. Others agreed
Their reasoning is that when parking is scarce, people have greater incentive to find alternate modes of transit, such as the bus, bike or Metro Light Rail which is scheduled to connect Santa Monica with Los Angeles and stop at the transit village in 2015.
Countering this argument, developer Hines and proponents of the project say that the village’s proximity to new public transit and the ability to live, work and shop all in one place will give village users reason enough to stay out of their cars. But residents Wednesday night weren’t buying it.
.“I don’t understand in LUCE (Land Use and Circulation Element of the City’s General Plan) how the City says we’re trying to reduce car trips, when 1,900 parking spaces is a lot more than what was there” when Papermate used the site, said Linda Lancaster.
Some were more strongly opposed to parking than others. “My recommendation is that there should be no parking on this site,” said Tricia Crane.
But perhaps the residents’ biggest worry is that the City isn’t taking into consideration the number of other large developments slated for the same area. They say the City needs to look at the overall picture instead of just taking things one development project at a time.
“Isn’t this just piecemeal planning?” said Zina Josephs, president of the neighborhood organization Friends of Sunset Park. There are already “two million square feet of development in the pipeline,” Josephs said, “and that’s just the beginning.”
In addition to the transit village, plans in West L.A. are moving forward to build Bundy Village and Medical Park, a 1.3-million-square-foot development near Santa Monica’s eastern border.
Neighborhood advocates have noted that the Planning Department estimates Bundy Village could generate 20,000 additional daily car trips and significantly impact 15 intersections in Santa Monica.
“It seems everything is cascading,” Steve Candell said at Wednesday’s meeting, pointing out that the Transit Village, Bundy Village, as well as the soon-to-be built Agensys facilities and plans for large-scale redevelopment of the Village Trailer Park site are all near each other.
Even without these projects, “trying to negotiate Olympic at certain times of the day is hopeless,” Candell said.
The draft EIR should be completed sometime in summer 2011 after which there will more public review and hearing before a final EIR is brought to City Council.
Residents who still wish to comment on the Bergamot Transit Village Project should email them before 5:30 p.m. December 15 to Jing Yeo, Special Projects Manager for the City at firstname.lastname@example.org or mail them to her at Planning and Community Development, 1685 Main Street, Santa Monica, CA 90401.
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