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City Council Not Satisfied with Proposal for Downtown “Dream Site”

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark


Rusty's Surf

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

By Jason Islas
Staff Writer

August 29, 2013 -- The City Council postponed moving forward Tuesday with plans by local developer Metropolitan Pacific Capital (MPC) to develop two and a half acres of public land in Downtown Santa Monica.

The Council voted 5-to-1 to reject staff's recommendation that the City enter into an exclusive negotiating agreement with MPC because the developer's plans -- selected from a pool of three proposed projects by staff last month -- left too many questions unanswered.

Instead, the Council decided that MPC and Related Companies -- another of the three developers competing for the project -- would get a chance to clarify their proposals and address the questions raised Tuesday night before the Council made a final decision.

“This is the most beautiful project,” Councilmember Gleam Davis said, referring to MPC's proposal for a 12-story, 500,000 square-foot complex with hotel, office, retail and public open space.

“But does that make it the right project?” asked Davis. “No, because there are all these other considerations.”

Chief among those considerations was housing, something the Council found lacking in MPC's proposal.

The initial plans include “flex space” that could be used for either office space or residential.

Related's proposal allotted about half of the 484,039 square-foot complex to housing, including 52 affordable apartments. But it's also a larger and more dense development, coming in at 19 stories, or 194 feet.

The other questions centered on public access to open space, the amount of control the City would have over which stores would end up in the site's retail space and exactly how much the City would get from leasing the property, since each developer has proposed its own payment plan.

Councilmember Bob Holbrook cast the lone dissenting vote Tuesday, arguing that MPC had already gone through a lengthy and expensive competitive process.

“I think they've earned the right for us to negotiate together,” he said, adding that a vote to accept staff's recommendation only meant that MPC could start the lengthy community process. ("Panel Picks Design for Santa Monica's 'Dream Site,'" July 15)

“We can't guarantee that there will be successful negotiation,” Holbrook said.

Still, Davis and the other Councilmembers thought that a little more competition, between the top two choices, could improve the proposals.

The Council agreed that the third project, proposed by Forest City Development West, could be taken out of the running, largely because it proposed using public money to fund the underground parking spaces that the City required as part of any proposal.

But the Councilmembers reassured the potential candidates and City staff that they had no intention of starting the process over.

“We're not talking about something long,” said Mayor Pro Tem Terry O'Day. He said it would be a chance for the two developers to provide an addendum to their proposals, rather than redraft them.

He asked City staff to aim to bring the revised proposals before the Council in three months.

Councilmember Tony Vazquez was absent from the dais Tuesday.

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