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Frank Gehry Mixed-Use Hotel for Downtown Santa Monica on Front-Burner Again


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By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

December 22, 2017 -- A controversial hotel/mixed use project designed by Frank Gehry for downtown Santa Monica will be the first of three major projects to re-surface after a long battle over a development plan for the core of the beach city.

An updated "concept plan” for the two-acre project at Santa Monica Boulevard and Ocean Avenue will be the subject of a January 11 community meeting, the City’s Department of Planning and Community Development announced Thursday.

When the “Ocean Avenue Project” was first unveiled in 2013, its architects promised the high-rise would change the face of Santa Monica’s skyline ("New Gehry Building Planned in Downtown Santa Monica," March 1, 2013).

Included in the plan was a 244-foot tall hotel building with 125 rooms and 25 condo units. Retail and restaurant space, as well as 19-rent controlled apartments, would take up the ground floor.

Two existing historic buildings on the site -- a Spanish Colonial house and a Victorian-style house that were formerly used as residences but now serve as office and retail spaces -- were to be preserved.

Action was stalled by the battle between the City Council and the slow-growth movement over an overall development plan for downtown.

The council adopted the Downtown Community Plan (DCP) in August ("Santa Monica Council Sets Highest Affordable Housing Requirement in State for Downtown," July 27, 2017).

Under the plan, buildings as tall as 84 feet would be allowed on three designated sites, including that of the Gehry designed building, without requiring a development agreement (DA) ("Santa Monica Downtown Plan Seeks to Strike a Compromise, Officials Say, But Some Remain Skeptical," April 13, 2017).

With a DA, which must be approved by the City Council, the structures at those three sites could rise as high as 130 feet, but would have to abide by the maximum floor area ratio (FAR) allowed for the 84-foot-tall projects unless they offer exceptional community benefits, such as preserving historic structures or providing ground level public space.

Thursday’s announcement said the revised project includes “a new hotel, 40,000 SF (square foot) museum, 79 for-rent residential apartments, 24,700 SF retail, 3,500 SF public observation deck on top of the hotel building, and approximately 25% open space at the ground level”

“The project also includes retention and rehabilitation of two City-designated Landmark buildings,” it said.

The other two big projects expected to re-emerge in coming months are the 12-story “Plaza at Santa Monica,” another hotel/mixed use project, this one at 4th/5th and Arizona on City-owned land, and the renovation of the Fairmont Miramar hotel on Ocean and Wilshire Boulevard.

The January 11 meeting “is the part of the preliminary concept phase of the Development Agreement process where residents, property owners, and interested parties are introduced to the proposal and have the opportunity to provide direct feedback to the developer and to City staff regarding the project’s conceptual design, size, mix of uses, and proposed community benefit,” the City announcement said.

“This meeting is also the first step in the Development Agreement 'float-up' process and occurs prior to the Planning Commission and City Council discussions of the concept plans,” it said.

It will be held at the Santa Monica Main Library in the Multi-Purpose Room, 2nd Floor, at 601 Santa Monica Boulevard, from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

More information is available by contacting Roxanne Tanemori, Principal Planner, at (310) 458-8341 or via e-mail at


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