Update On Massive New Development - Hines / Papermate

September 6, 2011

Dear Friends and Santa Monica Neighbors,

On August 23, 2011, the Santa Monica City Council voted to approve the city entering into negotiations with owners of the former Papermate site (26th and Olympic) to enable that site to be developed to more than twice the size of what current zoning allows. This massive new development would be in an area of our city which is already ground-zero for gridlock and traffic congestion.

Council's decision to move forward with this fiercely opposed project might not be surprising given that the developer (Hines) was the largest contributor in the last City Council election, giving money to pro-development City Council members as well as funding a misleading campaign to re-elect those same Council members.

Moving forward on this massive, poorly planned development was approved in spite of:

Rod Gould, Santa Monica's City Manager, admitted what we all know: the present level of traffic congestion on 26th Street and Olympic "overwhelms the intersection" and "there is no benefit of human enforcement" (i.e., assigning traffic officers there). And Mr. Gould was referring to today's traffic, not the future traffic that will result from new commercial projects totaling about 500,000 square feet which have already been approved for this corridor ahead of the Hines project.

Denny Zane, Mayor of Santa Monica in the era when the Water Garden was approved, in opposing the Hines "float up" stated: "'Another half million square feet of office space is an unbearable burden you should not accept." "We have a particular traffic problem which [has been] created primarily by the overdevelopment [of 3 million square feet] of office space in the 1980s and the underdevelopment of housing". Those of us on the Council "regretted that." "Do not make that same mistake and have the same regrets."

The Board of the Pico Neighborhood Association, which the City listed as a "Core Partner" of Hines on the project, said that not only was it not a "partner," but it had never heard that it was, never been asked to be, and never been consulted. –So much for community involvement and caring one hoot for residents.

And, after hundreds of opposition emails to the Council and dozens and dozens of residents and Westside community leaders spoke against this project, pointing out: (a) it's too big and looks like a business park, not a residential "village"; (b) the project is 71% commercial and only 29% residential, when commercial generates three times as much traffic as residential; exacerbating the housing/jobs imbalance in Santa Monica; (c) it is in the heart of the 26th Street traffic gridlock corridor, and it would create unbearable traffic to approve 750,000 sq. ft. of new development on top of the already approved but not yet built 500,000 sq. ft, of new commercial (d) it is premature and poor planning for the City to move forward with this project before the City completes its Master Plan for this very area in 2012; and (e) the City should have the traffic studies done for the draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for this site or the EIR itself before determining the size and mass and mix of the project.

How much more new traffic can our already over clogged roads take? Every stakeholder in Santa Monica agrees: the answer is none. Yet Council members, beholden to those who paid for their campaigns, are intent on approving this huge new project.

But the fight is not over! The Hines' project will have such a negative impact on our community that we must organize now to stop it from becoming a reality.

The struggle now will be over the parameters of the project, the Development Agreement, and the draft EIR when it comes out in December. Given the disastrous situation on the 10 Freeway at 26th Street and in the streets surrounding this project, the EIR is going to be particularly important. The record we now make will also be important at the next stage.

Please join our efforts by sending this update to others. It will take a village to tame this rogue elephant.

Stay tuned,

Diana, Victor, Sherrill, Susan, and Jeff