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Santa Monica Slow-Growth Advocates Not Upset by Hines Replacement Project

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark

Pacific Park, Santa Monica Pier

Harding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP  law firm
Harding, Larmore
Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

By Jonathan Friedman
Associate Editor

March 31, 2015 -- Nearly a year after the City Council reversed its approval of a controversial mixed-use development near a future light rail station on Santa Monica’s east end, the new property owner has proposed a much-smaller project that is receiving mixed reviews.

A major difference between the two projects other than the size is the new one features no housing (the previous project included 427 apartment units) and the developer offers no City-mandated public benefits.

Some consider the rejection of the previous proposal from then-owner Hines for the property on 26th Street off Olympic Boulevard as a lost opportunity

But the top slow-growth activists who helped bring down the first project are praising the new one.

"So many great opportunities to explore," wrote Ken Robin on Residocracy’s Facebook page.

He added, "It will remain low rise and serve a light rail business crowd that will spend a good portion of their earnings here in Santa Monica. And, maybe it [will] get a facelift on Olympic so the workers getting off the train don't get freaked out by an ugly fence."

Robin was one of many Residocracy activists who collected signatures to bring the council’s February 2014 approval of Hines’ proposal to a referendum. They said the project was too large and would cause a traffic nightmare in Santa Monica

Enough signatures were collected to force the council to either put the issue on the ballot or reverse its decision. The council voted 4-1 (with two abstentions) in May to reverse the decision.

Hines has since sold the property, and the new owner is listed on the City’s website as CSHV Pen Factory.

The new proposal posted on the City’s website calls for transforming the property’s vacant 196,000-square-foot building once occupied by Papermate through “adaptive re-use” into one featuring “creative office space.” 

The new-look structure -- which comes at a time when Santa Monica has been losing high-tech firms seeking larger spaces in neighboring Playa Vista -- will measure nearly 204,000 square feet.

Since the project meets the City’s zoning and code requirements, there is no need for a development agreement as was required with Hines’ proposal. This means CSHV does not have to offer any public benefits as Hines was required to do in exchange for variances.

“Overall, it is a win for the community,” wrote former City Council candidate Phil Brock on Residocracy’s Facebook page. “All in all, the people of this city won an important victory by stopping a project that was too big and too dense for the location."

No official word has come from Residocracy on how it views the new project, and whether it would lead an effort to block it, which would be a significantly more difficult task than killing Hines’ project.

Residocracy head Armen Melkonians did not respond to the Lookout’s email request for comment.

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