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Santa Monica Commission Approves Movie Theater Liquor, Medical Facility

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Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

Convention and Visitors Bureau Santa Monica

By Jonathan Friedman
Associate Editor

November 20, 2015 -- Without any discussion, the Santa Monica Planning Commission on Wednesday approved a request by AMC Theaters to serve alcohol at its seven-screen cinema on the Third Street Promenade.

AMC alcohol service will be limited to movie customers in a bar area located away from where other drinks and food are purchased, according to a City staff report. There will be no seats at the bar.

This is the third Santa Movie theater complex to be approved for alcohol use. Approvals were also granted for the new ArcLight Cinemas at Santa Monica Place (opening this month) and Laemmle on Second Street that is closed while under renovation.

The commission also approved alcohol service, again without discussion, for Umani Burger, which will soon move a few doors down to a larger location on Broadway.

Also on Wednesday, the commission voted in favor of allowing a three-story designated landmark on Arizona Avenue off 22nd Street known as the Doctors Building to operate as a medical facility despite being zoned for residential use.

The three-story white structure with a curved entrance was constructed in the early 1950s as a medical facility. It was designated as a landmark in 2009.

It has been vacant since 2013 and was recently purchased by the Saint John’s Health Center Foundation.

After some interior changes to the building, the structure will open for use by the Pacific Neuroscience Institute, which the head of the foundation told the City Council last year features “world-class physicians” who provide specialized brain tumor surgery, among other services.

Much of the commission discussion prior to the unanimous vote in favor of the conditional-use permit for medical use focused on the hours of operation because the building is in a residential area, although one located across the street from Saint John’s Health Center.

“We have to strike the balance between sympathy for the doctors and sympathy for the residents,” Commission Chair Richard McKinnon said.

Commissioner Jennifer Kennedy also noted that the residents near this building are facing the hospital’s emergency room.

“They are subjected to noise and interruptions unexpectedly at all hours of the day seven days a week,” she said. “So, in my opinion that doesn’t mean we have to intensify it just because they already experiencing it.”

The commission settled on a time frame of 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday.

In addition to modifications to the interior of the building, there are plans to make some minor changes to the area, including adding two bicycle racks at the front entrance and landscaping medians.

“The proposed project would be compatible with the surrounding neighborhood in that it will continue the same legal non-conforming land use which has been established since 1947” when the permit was approved, the staff report states.

The Landmarks Commission and Architectural Review Board will need to further review the project plans.

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