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Coalition Opposes Condo Development


By Jorge Casuso

June 9, 2009 -- Saying it represents a citywide “groundswell,” an anti-development coalition is mounting a campaign to stop a Texas developer from replacing a rent control building on prime Santa Monica real estate with multi-million dollar condominiums.

The Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City fired off a letter to the City Council Monday warning that it would be closely monitoring the fate of a 47-unit rent controlled building the Landmarks Commission designated as a landmark in January.

On Tuesday, the council will hear an appeal by Trammel Crow, a national developer the coalition suspects will file for a development agreement to build a luxury condominium complex on the corner of Ocean Avenue and San Vicente Boulevard.

“Development Agreements make a sham of zoning as they allow wealthy developers to play by a different set of rules than the rest of us: If you don't like the zoning, you can change it for your project,” read the letter signed by 140 Santa Monica residents.

“Additionally, residents don't have a voice when these backroom deals are made; deals that profoundly affect their neighborhoods,” the letter said. “Such a deal would be an affront to all Santa Monica residents concerned about the ongoing destruction of affordable housing.”

City staff last week recommended that the council side with the developer and reject the Landmark Commission’s decision that the building be designated a landmark because it once belonged Clo Hoover, the city’s first female mayor. (“City Council Should Deny Landmark Status for Former Mayor’s Building, Staff Says,” June 5, 2009)

Former tenants of the building being vacated under a State law that allows owners of rent control buildings to go out of the rental market had hoped Hoover’s connection to the building at 301 Ocean Avenue would lead to a landmark designation.

“Trammel Crow has tried to attribute the opposition to their development to disgruntled tenants who only wanted to protect their rent-controlled apartments, but much of the opposition is from homeowners,” coalition leaders said in a statement.

“The wave has become citywide instead of being confined to the immediate neighborhood.”

The coalition -- which sponsored a failed ballot initiative last November to limit most commercial development to 75,000 square feet a year -- said the City’s Planning Department has been withholding documents relating to the proposed development.

After citizens were told on May 29 that there were no such documents, they filed a public information request that produced 177 documents that contained references to still other documents that were not provided, the coalition said.

“The documents obtained disclose that in October 2008 the Planning Department accepted a project preliminary submittal from Trammel Crow and began requesting bids for (reports) that would be required for the project that exceeds regulations in the zoning ordinance,” coalition officials said.

The reports, the coalition contends, lay the groundwork for a development agreement, which allows developers to exceed zoning and land use standards, while remaining consistent with local planning policies under the general plan. (“Development Agreements on the Rise,” August 13, 2008)

"We believe that City Council should be doing everything in its power to protect affordable housing, not incentivizing developers to demolish it by allowing them to build even larger, more profitable projects than the City normally allows," the letter said.

"Negotiating an agreement with Trammell Crow under these circumstances would be rewarding the worst kind of corporate behavior: encouraging developers to continue to evict Santa Monica families from their homes," the letter said.


“Development Agreements make a sham of zoning as they allow wealthy developers to play by a different set of rules."


"We believe that City Council should be doing everything in its power to protect affordable housing."

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