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
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
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
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
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.