PICO-CENTINELA PROJECT FLUNKS FLOAT-UP

City Council wrap-up for 11/27/12, posted at http://www.smgov.net/departments/council/wrapup.aspx —

By Zina Josephs

“DEVELOPMENT AGREEMENT FLOAT-UP FOR A NEW MIXED-USE PROJECT AT 3402 PICO BOULEVARD – Council discussed the applicant’s Development Agreement proposal and provided direction regarding the appropriateness of the site development and potential community benefits. Council encouraged the applicant to return after evaluating alternative uses of the site before beginning the Development Agreement negotiation and review process between the City and Developer.”

From Zina: Thank you to the 41 Sunset Park residents who spent hours at the City Council meeting on November 26th in order to speak so eloquently during Public Comment on agenda item 8-B, the 3402 Pico Development Agreement. Not a single resident supported the project as proposed, and apparently the same was true of about 100 emails that the Council members received. Concerns included the height and density of the project, traffic impacts, and the health impacts on future residents living 19 feet from the freeway.

I have not yet been able to obtain the exact wording of the motion that was passed by the Council, but my understanding of what happened is that the Council did the following:

1) denied the project as presented,
2) asked for more information about the existing air quality at the site, and
3) asked for Environmental Impact Reports to be prepared for the project a) as proposed, b) a significantly smaller version of the proposed project, and c) a commercial/office-only version of the project.

I wasn’t able to attend the July 2012 Planning Commission hearing on this project, but I’ve been told that of about 50 residents who attended, the only person who supported the project was Bob Kronovet.

Likewise, at the January 26, 2012 community meeting at Fairview Library, the standing-room-only crowd was opposed to the project, based on size and traffic.

Pico/Centinela in the news – October 2011 to November 2012:

“Developer, City Sent Back to Drawing Board” — November 29, 2012 — Santa Monica Dispatch — http://www.santamonicadispatch.com/2012/11/developer-city-sent-back-to-drawing-board/

“Apartments proposed 19 feet from freeway” — November 28, 2012 — Daily Press — http://www.smdp.com/apartments-proposed-19ft-from-freeway/114935

Letter: “Just Say No” — November 27, 2012 — Santa Monica Daily Press — http://www.smdp.com/letter-just-say-no/114844

“City at Point of Enough” — November 27, 2012 — Santa Monica Dispatch — http://www.santamonicadispatch.com/2012/11/city-at-point-of-enough/

“To the Council: Scale It Down” — November 27, 2012 — Santa Monica Dispatch — http://www.santamonicadispatch.com/2012/11/to-the-council
-scale-it-down/

“Traffic Already Intolerable” — November 27, 2012 — Santa Monica Dispatch — http://www.santamonicadispatch.com/2012/11/pico-traffic-already-intolerable/

“Development Paralyzing Sunset Park” — November 27, 2012 — Santa Monica Dispatch — http://www.santamonicadispatch.com/2012/11/development-paralyzing-sunset-park/

“Sunset Park Is Not New York” — November 27, 2012 — Santa Monica Dispatch — http://www.santamonicadispatch.com/2012/11/sunset-park-is-not-new-york/

“To the City Council: Reject This Project” — November 26, 2012 — Santa Monica Dispatch — http://www.santamonicadispatch.com/2012/11/to-city-council-reject-this-project/

“Council Members Have Been Duped” — November 26, 2012 — Santa Monica Dispatch — http://www.santamonicadispatch.com/2012/11/council-members-have-been-duped

“The Bigger Is Best, Money Is All, Crowd Convenes” — November 25, 2012 — Santa Monica Dispatch — http://www.santamonicadispatch.com/2012/11/the-bigger-is-better-most-is-best-money-is-all-crowd-convenes/

Public Correspondence re 3402 Pico Blvd. — http://www.smgov.net/departments/council/agendas/2012/20121127/s2012112708-B-2.pdf

“Pico-Centinela Development too Urban? Neighbors of the proposed mixed-use project at Pico Boulevard and Centinela Avenue call on developers to downsize.” — July 24, 2012 — Santa Monica Patch — http://santamonica.patch.com/articles/pico-centinela-development-raises-traffic-parking-concerns#photo-10746875

“Pico-Centinela Development Project Sparks Public Debate” — July 20, 2012 — Santa Monica Mirror — http://www.smmirror.com/articles/News/Pico-Centinela-Development-Project-Sparks-Public-Debate/35060 — (with aerial photo of the site)

“Plans Submitted to Turn Old Grammy Building into Rental, Mixed Use” — January 25, 2012 — LA Curbed — http://la.curbed.com/archives/2012/01/plans_submitted_to_turn_old_grammy_hq_into_rental_mixeduse.php#reader_
comments

“Trammell Crow Flies into New Controversy” — January 23, 2012 — Santa Monica Daily Press — http://www.smdp.com/trammell-crow-flies-into-new-controversy/80147

“Pico Development Too Big, Neighbors Say” — January 23, 2012 — Santa Monica Patch — http://santamonica.patch.com/articles/pico-centinela-project

“City, Trammel Crow Surprise Sunset Park Residents” — January 18, 2012 — Santa Monica Dispatch — http://www.santamonicadispatch.com/2012/01/city-trammell-crow-surprise-sunset-park-residents/

“Recording Academy, Which Awards Grammys, Sells Santa Monica Headquarters” — October 2, 2011 — Los Angeles Times — http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/money_co/2011/09/grammy-recording-academy-sells-santa-monica-headquarters.html

“The Recording Academy, the organization that hands out the music industry’s annual Grammy Awards, sold its former Santa Monica headquarters to developers.

Developer Trammell Crow Co. and investment firm Westport Capital Partners bought the unoccupied three-story office building at 3402 Pico Blvd. and two adjacent residential parcels, real estate brokerage CB Richard Ellis said.

The price was not disclosed, but Westside real estate experts familiar with the property valued the deal at more than $10 million.

Trammell Crow hasn’t decided exactly what to do with the property yet, Senior Managing Director Brad Cox said, but some kind of residential development is likely.

“It’s a great piece of real estate in Santa Monica, where you [ordinarily] can’t find two and half acres of contiguous space,” Cox said.

The 39,128-square-foot office building constructed in 1969 has been vacant since the Recording Academy moved in 2009 to larger quarters in the nearby Lantana office park, which is home to many entertainment industry businesses.

Trammell Crow may refurbish the former Recording Academy building and rent it to a single tenant while building housing alongside. Or the developer may demolish the office and a vacant 11-unit apartment house on one of the adjacent parcels to make way for a new apartment complex.

“We’re looking at a combination of possibilities,” Cox said.

Development would conform with the city’s recent general plan update, he said. The east Santa Monica neighborhood that was formerly an industrial center is in the path of planned light rail service and is gentrifying.

“It’s turning into kind of a hipster location,” Cox said.

DEVELOPER, CITY SENT BACK TO DRAWING BOARD

We’ve covered more City Council meetings for more years than we can
count, but last night we saw something we’d never seen before. Over
40 residents spoke about a proposed mega-project, and every single
one of the speakers opposed the project – on valid grounds.

The site of Trammell Crow’s proposed project consists of three large contiguous parcels, totaling 112,056 square feet on the south side of
Pico between 34th Street and Centinela Ave. It’s now occupied by the
former Grammy headquarters, surface and below grade parking, and a
cluster of empty residential units.

Trammell Crow wants to bulldoze all of that and build four separate buildings, ranging from two to four stories with 260 residential units,
2,999 square feet of commercial space on Pico, and 505 parking spaces
in a two level underground garage.

One of the proposed buildings is only 19 feet from the 10 freeway.
Studies have shown that proximity to freeway air pollution causes
early onset asthma, a variety of significant problems for pregnant
women, damage to brain cells, and, possibly, autism in young
children.

A Trammell Crow spokesman said the building closest to the freeway
would have double-pane windows, and would act as a shield for the
other buildings. But a resident who is a researcher with a USC air pollution study noted the utter inadequacy of such measures.

A parade of speakers, almost all of whom lived in Sunset Park or
the Pico Neighborhood, described all the other problems with the
proposed project. It would pump another 2,000 cars a day into
streets that are already clogged with cars. The project is much
too big, overwhelming adjacent residential neighborhoods. Some
of the proposed buildings are four stories – two stories taller
than current standards, and bound to overshadow nearby houses and
small apartment buildings.

Over two million square feet of new commercial development in the
area are in the pipeline, but the City has yet to complete a
federally funded area plan to measure the multiple impacts of
this latest building boom.

Though the addition of all these proposed mega-projects and the
many hundreds of new apartments will trigger a population
explosion, the City and the School District have yet to examine
its effects on the schools. Will class sizes enlarge to unmanageable
proportions? Will existing schools have to add new classrooms, or
will new schools have to be built, and if so, where would the
money come from? Should developers be required to pay for new
and/or enlarged schools and other public resources?

A number of people said that all the things that had drawn them to
Sunset Park – its serenity, its low key atmosphere, its charming
vistas — are disappearing in this storm of commercial construction.

At the conclusion of the residents’ detailed and extended critique,
the Trammell Crow group and the Council seemed to be in shock. The
developer had come, seeking a Development Agreement, but clearly that
was unlikely, so its lawyer, Dale Goldsmith, City Attorney Marcia
Moutrie and several Council members crafted a novel sequence that
would begin with an Environmental Impact Report on the site with suggestions as to its ultimate use, which might include commercial
as well residential developments.

Several Council members apparently felt it necessary to say that as
Trammell Crow owned the land, it could ultimately do what it wanted
to do with the land.

According to the City, Santa Monica’s current daily transient
population is 300,000, which makes it the most densely populated
city in America – thanks, in part, to its high-powered, publicly
funded $2,500,000 annual promotion campaign. If the more
expensive hotels have their way, the entire city will soon become
a “Marketing and Promotion District,” and its budget will double
– to $5 million annually, as hotels that charge over $100 a night
will assess themselves. As far as we know, neither the City nor
the hotels, nor Downtown Santa Monica, Inc., which manages Third
Street and environs, has done any research on the effects of doubling promotion and marketing programs. Nor do residents have any say in
the creation of such a district, though we will all live in it,
and will all be affected by it.

Based in Dallas, Trammell Crow is a major developer, with projects
all over the map. Its managing partner in Los Angeles,Brad Cox,
was awarded the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce leadership award
this year, and he chairs the Santa Monica Alliance, a City-Chamber
partnership that is engaged in selling Santa Monica as “business
friendly.”

The Transparency Group, which tracks and reports political campaign
contributions to local officials, reports that Trammell Crow gave
campaign contributions of $325 each to incumbent City Council members
who successfully ran for re-election in the November election: Mayor
Pro Tem Gleam Davis and Terry O’Day.

Trammell Crow’s architect, Killefer, Flaming Architects, gave a
campaign contribution of $2500 to Mayor Richard Bloom, who ran
for State Assembly, and presided at his last Council meeting
last night.

The firm also contributed $1000 to Santa Monicans United
for a Responsible Future (SMURF), which endorsed Davis
and O’Day and financed a number of mailers supporting their
candidacies.

Armbruster, Goldsmith, Trammell Crow’s attorneys, gave
a campaign contribution of $650 to O’Day.

The developer’s other current Santa Monica project – 20-some
outsized condos at 301 Ocean Avenue – began with the eviction
of 47 longtime tenants several years ago and City Council’s approval
of the demolition of the landmark building – but several years
have passed, its residents have scattered, and the building stands,
boarded up and empty.

COUNCIL APPROVES TRAILER PARK ORDINANCE

Last night’s City Council meeting began with sort of a tribute to Mayor Richard Bloom and Council member Bobby Shriver, both of whom were ending their Council runs. Each of them was presented with a large gift-wrapped box, which they chose not to open. All of their fellow Council members – except Kevin Mckeown – complimented them vaguely for their service. And that was that.

As it turned out, the semi-tribute was the high point of the meeting.The first important item on the agenda was the second reading and adoption of an ordinance approving Mark Luzzatto’s controversial plans to replace the graceful, idyllic, vintage Village Trailer Park with a mega-mixed use project, and, in the process, evict the Trailer Park residents. McKeown
had questions, but no one on the Council or staff wanted to address them, much less answer them. The vote was Bloom, Terry O’Day, Bob Holbrook and Pam O’Connor, Yes, McKeown and Mayor Pro Tem Gleam Davis and McKeown, No, and Shriver, Abstain – as he was absent during the first reading.

EXPLAIN THE RUSH TO APPROVE AND THE TRUTH WILL OUT

By David Latham, Trailer Park Resident

Regrettably, those striving to justify their votes tonight—City Council, Agenda Item 7A—seemed to have actually convinced themselves that the false assertions made were instead true. But for having adequate time and exposure, such claims could have been seen for what they are.

“More than generous” aid provided residents? Again, but for time and proper attention, details and simple calculations could have shown just how self-serving and ludicrous such statements were.

Nothing close to comparable replacement housing for homes in this now all-but-lost facility has yet been found. After two decades of massive development in this City, no even reasonably-equal such housing now exists; much less anything close to what this chosen lifestyle offered before it had been so pillaged [45 trailers removed by ownership (40% of all in the park), none brought in nor allowed brought in, and yet such claims as “must close the park, it’s not profitable” keep being made].

As well, nothing close to fair compensation for the willful taking of these owned homes has yet to be offered.

Discussion about just how this horrendous wrenching of lives and destruction of an established Santa Monica community might be reasonably remedied has yet to be had. Nor has any sound reason yet been given to justify destruction of this historic, deemed landmark-worthy City asset and its neighborhood.

Too, repeatedly it is asserted that law allows the “closing of the park”. It does not. Law does allow a property owner to cease “doing park business” on the owned land. Two very different statements.

Resident homeownership- and residency- rights don’t magically disappear just because a landowner decides not to run a park business on the property he owns.

No democratic vote has yet been taken to justify change of zoning on this property. Present law requires it continue to be used by someone running a mobile home park business on it. [Most interesting that the original claim of wanting to get out of the park management business so fluidly and quietly changed to wanting to build a massive money-making development on land not even zoned for that usage.]

Seeking simply to remove residents so a government-chosen development agenda could be achieved seems to have blinded these who are sworn to serve the interests of residents of the City. Apparently so blinded them that they cannot even recognize what just treatment of these residents might look like.

Sadly in this one-sided matter, truth, facts, ethics, and logic seem to have little relevance.

Once again, it appears that the interests of the few holding power may be honored over the rights and needs of the more defenseless many.

Hom—cc, item 7A—11-27-12

BRENDA BARNES/APROPOS

Decided to send another comment, since this one I wrote for the Santa Monica Patch (www.santamonicapatch.com) seemed so apropos. I want to give credit to Cris McLeod of the Mountain View Mobile home Inn tenants association for giving me the idea to look at value of a mobile home park to renters this way.

We who own houses at VTP all have affordable housing, averaging $416 a month UNDER RENT CONTROL for space for homes we own and housing services of water and natural gas, a large swimming pool, a large iconic mid-Century community room, a library, two common bathrooms with hot water showers, a deck and BBQ party area, and maintenance of those common areas and the Park’s sewers, electrical systems, and roads. If this DA actually happened, which it won’t, 109 units of affordable housing would be lost from the rental housing market.

Each of these 109 units lost to renters in Santa Monica would require payment by renters of at least $1,000 more per month in rent. The Planning Commission found $1,623 more, but just to be conservative and give credit in lost rent for the value of our houses, say $1,000. To use round numbers, say 100 units times $1,000, this property is worth $100,000 a MONTH future Santa Monica renters do not have to pay..

As long as rent control lasts (200 years and counting in London), assuming fixed difference in amounts, that means in 100 months, 2 less than 10 years, renters will pay $10 million more in rent because the City allowed a land speculator to steal our homes so he could make $10 million and pay the City $5 million. In not 20 years (16), renters lose $20 million on this deal. If rent control lasts 200 years, it would be $200 million renters lost. The present value to renters of this property is at least $20 million. The City owes that.

What’s another comment, when we will be litigating this for seven years at least, if we get finsihed as soon as the Lincoln Place tenants did (and they were only tenants, not homeowners and tenants as we are):

This too, is at www.santamonicapatch.com:

By the way, the City calls that $5 million cut they take for the general fund, in return for giving a land speculator a development agreement, “community benefits,” but nothing requires it to be spent in the Pico Neighborhood where this land is. History shows it took 16 years to break ground on a library in Pico Neighborhood, while millions were spent in richer, whiter parts of the City, the parts EVERY Councilmember has ALWAYS lived in.

Moreover, the homes at Village Trailer Park are the ONLY places in Santa Monica where low-cost home ownership is possible. The Housing Element requirement of state law requires every city to make provision for land for every type of housing and every level of income, and specifically mobile homes. The City owns the only other former mobile home park in Santa Monica,and has spent ten years replacing mobile homes with permanent housing, making new rules (violating the Rent Control Law, since renewal rules can be only renewals of old rules, not imposition of new ones) that require all new tenants to have homes classified as permanent and no older than five years, and in general harassing every remaining longterm tenant to try to turn the Park into a high-rent zone.

The tenants filed a $120 million claim recently against the City–truly a landlord from Hell. A judge stated in a reported case about harassment of one of those tenants, Santa Monica loses all its concern for tenants’ rights when it becomes a landlord.

One more before the Closed Session ends, likewise mine from www,santamonicapatch.com:

The upshot of this is, everything the City’s staff says about a development agreement for VTP land is what the Council directed staff to say, it is whatever is necessary to make the deal sound good, and it is a lie. Jing Yeo, the “Special Projects” planner in charge of this so-called planning, told us once when SIX City employees including Deputy City Attorney Alan Seltzer came and tried to coerce us into taking one of the land speculator’s offers to move, that the Council directed them to negotiate a development agreement, and that is what they were doing.

The saddest thing about this is we are homeowners. People do not think 109 homeowners can lose their homes so a land speculator and the City can make money. But worse than that, we have special protections other homeowners do not have, in the state Mobile home Residency Law, and in the Santa Monica Rent Control Law. If we homeowners can be moved on so the speculators of the world and the City can make money (and at the same time destroy an R-2 neighborhood, the Mid-City Neighborhood), then what will happen to homeowners who do NOT have special protections against eviction? This was a test. The City was seeing if it could get by with this because we would be in Pico Neighborhood, so have little support, we would be old, poor, sick, and weak, so we would not be able to defend ourselves from them, and then they would have their precedent. For Sunset Park when the Airport closes. For all of Ocean Park. For Wilmont.

SUNSET PARK IS NOT NEW YORK

Dear Council members,

I STRONGLY URGE YOU TO VOTE NO to the proposed redevelopment of 3402 Pico Boulevard – agenda item 8-B for tonight’s meeting. I am a Santa Monica homeowner who has resided between Ocean Park and Pearl Avenue on 21st since 1991 and have watched our quiet and “sleepy” neighborhood become over run with cars, smog and just too much traffic as increasing number of large scale projects have come to our neighborhood. As a former resident of the Upper Westside in Manhattan, I enjoyed the vibrancy of living in high-density apartment housing close to nearby entertainment, restaurants and shopping opportunities. However, the Sunset park region in Santa Monica is not designed for this type of living arrangement and quite frankly, none of us who live in the neighborhood sought that life style when we chose to move to this area of Santa Monica. There is no subway as in New York and the roads we now have are inadequate to handle the current traffic load, let alone the every expanding number of proposed projects in our neighborhood. Have any one of you tried going East on a Friday afternoon on Ocean Park, Pico or the 10 Freeway? This is not what we signed up for when we purchased our home over 20 years ago. If the city is so interested in building up high density project, why not do it neighborhoods north of Wilshire and Montana with its lower density of housing?

Santa Monica will never be New York and it should continue to maintain the population and housing density that those of us in the neighborhood expected when we chose to live in this part of town. If I wanted to recreate the life style I had on the Upper Westside, I would have moved closer to the 3rd Street mall.

I urge you to stop all this development in this part of Santa Monica. The money quite frankly isn’t worth it and without an adequate infrastructure – that none of us want; it is best to look elsewhere for further and future development.

Sincerely,

Dr. Andrew Stolz

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