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Democratic Club Opposes “Massive Expansion” of Indoor Mall

By Olin Ericksen
Staff Writer

April 29 -- In a preemptive move against any future plans developers might have to super-size the city's indoor mall Downtown, some three dozen members of the Santa Monica Democratic Club voted unanimously Wednesday to "oppose any massive expansion of Santa Monica Place."

The resolution -- passed by the general body -- came one month after the steering committee decided to delay a vote to allow for more input and likely signals the beginning of a door-to-door campaign for "community outreach," a club official said.

"It is a real big possibility... that the canvass is likely to begin doing outreach to see how the community feels," said Patricia Hoffman, a steering committee member and former president of the club.

"People aren't opposed to anything happening at the site, we just want something that is within human scale,” said Hoffman, who ran for City Council last year. “We want to keep it in scale with the community.”

The group's vote comes after the City Council scrapped a plan by and the Macerich Company that would nearly double the size of the struggling indoor mall and add 450 residential units, including three 21-story condo towers.

Macerich officials noted that the redevelopment was the subject of an ongoing public process that has not yet resulted in a proposal for the Democratic Club to oppose.

“I don’t really understand what a ‘massive’ project is,” said Macerich Vice President Randy Brant, referring to the club’s resolution. “However, I appreciate the concern of the Democratic Club.

“I invite them to meet with us to help direct Macerich and the City to conceive a project that makes sense for Santa Monica,” Brant said.

The group’s resolution, Hoffman said, does not oppose a specific proposal.

"We're not standing against any proposals,” she said. “We are standing up for a scale compatible with our City."

In addition to “massive expansion,” the club is worried about financing for the redevelopment of the site, which currently includes two parking structures on City-owned land, and how any deal between Macerich and the City may affect adjacent properties.

"We really want to find out about the financing of the project and if and how redevelopment funds are being used,” Hoffman said.

“If the City gives two acres worth of ground next to the development site, what do we get in return?” Hoffman asked, referring to the site of the parking structures. “Where is the community benefit for the project?"

City and mall officials have noted that as part of the public process, a financial consultant will analyze how much the different development options will cost in a report that will likely be completed next month.

In addition to the nearly 40 members who voted by a show of cards at the Democratic Club meeting, another 15 to 20 mailed in comments, Hoffman said.

Out of those, only two said they would like for the project to "start over" or start from scratch again, Hoffman said. The rest favored the resolution.

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