June 24, 2009
To: Joan Ling, Executive Director, Community Corporation of Santa Monica
From: Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City
Re: 2802 Pico Blvd. Project
The Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City (SMCLC) supports the establishment of affordable housing in Santa Monica. However, the project to be built at 2802 Pico Boulevard raises some grave concerns that need addressing.
First, we believe that the public process of holding "community" design workshops is flawed. Only residents within 500 feet of the project were invited to weigh in on the project. Yet this project will impact the entire neighborhood and therefore all residents should have had an opportunity to give feedback to assure a meaningful and transparent process. Further, all attempts should be made to make sure that there are no other scheduled hearings that would conflict with the opportunity to give input. The June 24th workshop is scheduled the same evening as a joint meeting of the Planning Commission and the Architectural Review Board to consider a huge studio entertainment project at 28th/Stewart and Colorado, only a few blocks north of the 2802 Pico project.
This makes it difficult for residents and neighborhood organizations to give feedback on both important projects that affect them.
We also strongly believe that the current ordinance, which exempts affordable housing projects of 50 units or less from development review does not allow for sufficient public process. There should be a public review of the "exemptions" from the regular development process before the zoning ordinances are updated.
Second, we believe that the excessive size, scale, and density of the 2802 Pico project threatens the quality of life of nearby residents as well as those who frequent the area to shop at places like the popular Trader Joe's and 99 Cent Store and also those who access the freeway not far from the proposed project.
The proposed 4-story building would be the sole one of its size in the area between 14th and 34th Streets and the particular block where it will be sited is zoned for a maximum of only two stories.
Third, the absence of traffic studies or information about daily traffic counts on Pico or 28th Street is a major oversight. It is crucial that studies be done to determine the impact on traffic in an area that is already highly traveled and often congested.
Fourth, this project fails to incorporate retail space on its ground floor, creating dead space in a commercial area, similar to the problematic affordable housing project at 26th Street and Santa Monica Boulevard that now everyone, including Council members, agrees was a mistake.
Finally, when community suggestions are made by residents who have studied the project their suggestions should be taken seriously by those involved in the project. We hope that the architect will pay close attention to the various recommendations of residents, including that there be more setbacks than shown on the previous project design.
Community input is vital for getting the local neighborhood invested in an affordable housing project such as this one being proposed. Thrusting it upon a neighborhood without sufficient discussion and a meaningful response to the concerns expressed has the opposite effect. "The way you really have long-term participation of the community and the way that people in the community build consensus is through a process that involves everyone and out of that process, you come to an agreement ... a consensus and a vision for the future," said Planning and Community Development Director Eileen Fogarty, referring to the numerous community workshops on LUCE that have taken place. This project is no different.
Thank you for your consideration.
Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City
Cc: City Council, Planning Commission, Eileen Fogarty, Lucy Dyke, Neighborhood Associations