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California Coastal Commission Approves Santa Monica Civic Center Projects
By Niki Cervantes
October 15, 2017 -- The California Coastal Commission last week signed off on two major public projects that will further transform Santa Monica's Civic Center.
The projects -- a three-building childcare center on the current Civic Center surface parking lot and a nearly $75 million addition to City Hall -- will not hurt access to the beach, the commission decided.
“The unanimous approval for both projects reaffirms a decade of thoughtful planning and community engagement in achieving the goals of the 2005 Civic Center Specific Plan,” said Santa Monica City Manager Rick Cole.
“The claims from opponents of inadequate Civic Center parking fell flat with the Commissioners," he said.
The commission’s approval on Thursday during a session in Chula Vista (in the San Diego area) was necessary because of the center’s potential impact on public parking so close to the beach.
Santa Monica College’s Early Childhood Lab School, which is slated for the corner of 4th Street and Civic Center Drive, will total about 60,480 square-feet, which includes three buildings, play space and parking.
About 110 infants and children between the ages of 12 weeks to five years are expected to use the facility. It is scheduled to be finished next year.
Complaints focused primarily on 230 parking spots the center will replace, and fears the project will crowd out a Civic Center playing field championed for decades by Santa Monica High School parents and approved by the City Council in June ("Santa Monica Civic Center Playing Field Wins City Council Approval," June 29, 2017).
But the commission agreed with staff’s recommendation to permit the project.
Based on the current inventory, “the Civic Center surface parking lot and parking structure provide an adequate supply of parking to support the proposed change of use,” the report said.
“In addition, the proposed development includes 15 short-term surface parking spaces. Therefore, in this particular case, the proposed project is not expected to adversely impact public coastal access,” the report said.
The surface parking lot the center replaces has 1,009 spaces.
Cole said the Commission's decision "bodes well for the future approval of the Civic Center Multi-Use Sports Field when we submit the final design being developed now."
Also before the commission was the extremely-green but also extremely expensive City Hall addition approved by the council earlier this year ("City of Santa Monica Prepares to Bond Nearly $77 million for Greenest Building in California History," August 4, 2017).
Financed by the City with a $77 million bond that angered constituents who thought the money could be better spent on affordable housing, the proposed building also potentially jeopardized the playing field.
The commission approved the staff-recommendation to grant the needed permit, which found the current parking inventory was adequate “to support the proposed increase in the intensity of use,” staff said.
The proposed City Hall addition will generate a demand of 90 parking spaces.
Both votes for coastal development permits were unanimous and will allow the projects to move forward.
"The City is committed to ensuring all three projects are constructed to benefit the residents and especially the youth of our community,” Cole said.
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