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Too Noisy, Santa Monica Place Neighbors Complain  

By Ann K. Williams
Lookout Staff

March 7, 2011 -- Patrons of Santa Monica Place eateries will have to bring their drinks indoors at midnight, at least for a while longer, if the Planning Commission gets its way.

City planners asked commissioners Wednesday to approve of a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) that would let some restaurants on the top floor of Santa Monica Place to keep serving alcohol outside until 1:30 a.m.

But after hearing from people who live in the area, the commission told Macerich – the company that manages Santa Monica Place – to return with its request in 90 days after it addresses the mall's neighbors' concerns.

“Personally, I'm all for supporting the local businesses,” said Commissioner Ted Winterer, but Macerich needs to demonstrate that it can “increase your business operations and revenues and at the same time not creat[e] an undue burden on the adjacent residences.”

Most of the residents' complaints were about noise, and, mostly, they came from Promenade Gateway, a mixed-use development across the street from the mall on Broadway Street that includes 32 apartments. A petition signed by 51 of its residents opposes the CUP.

Karen Pappas, property manager for Promenade Gateway, spoke on their behalf. Her tenants – professionals and families with young children – need their sleep, she said. Some might move if it gets too loud at night.

Their biggest concern is a restaurant called Zengo, which is right across the street from their windows. Another restaurant, Xino, withdrew its application, for which residents are thankful, Pappas said.

Two other residents spoke at Wednesday's meeting.

One, Joellen Rhodes, a Promenade Gateway resident, went into greater detail. “The music is too loud,” Rhodes said, especially when bands are “cranked up to unacceptable level[s].”

The restaurants don't enforce existing curfews, Rhodes said, and “they say they can mitigate it [the noise], but they can't prevent it...We need our rest.”

She also complained about the noise after everything at the mall had closed. Some mornings, buses and garbage trucks woke her up as early as 4:30 a.m. as did the window cleaning at Zengo.

“Bells were beeping” as the window cleaners went “up and down, up and down,” Rhodes said.

And another resident on 2nd Street took it to the next level.

From 12 midnight to 2 p.m., people “start coming out of these places really loud, screaming all over the streets,” said Alice Moradian.

During the summer, the mostly elderly and disabled residents where she lives have to keep their windows open to cool off, making the noise worse, she said.

“People come up with their limousines,” said Moradian. “Young people jump out of their limousines. The music is really loud.”

“All kinds of things happen,” she went on. “Somebody was smoking marijuana in the stairwell so the whole alarm system went on,” she elaborated.

“It's not the first time. Constantly, regularly, we have people defecating in the stairways,” Moradian added.

Selling more alcohol is not the way to make things better, she said, recommending an approach like Boston's Blue Laws that limit alcohol sales.

The four commissioners on the dais – Gwynne Pugh recused himself because he had done business with Macerich, Chair Jim Ries showed up after this item had been dealt with, and Hank Koning was absent – couldn't come to an agreement on how to amend the request in a way that would allay their concerns and satisfy the neighbors.

So they asked Macerich representative Doug Roscoe to return in 90 days after addressing several points.

Most importantly, Winterer wants Macerich to make “a big effort with the community to keep the noise down and address their concerns.”

Commissioners also want the police department to monitor the noise from the mall on a busy night when the weather is warm. Police already monitored the noise, but the readings were conducted on a weekday night when the weather was bad, and so they weren't reflective of how loud it can really get, they said.

Finally, commissioners aren't convinced that the patio area for The Market, which will open in May, really needs to be included in the CUP, since it's more of a “food court” use, and isn't likely to stay open very late.

The issue will return to the Planning Commission in July. The City Council can take its own action on the CUP request before then without Planning Commission approval.


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