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Council Approves Downtown Santa Monica Mixed-Use 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

Convention and Visitors Bureau Santa Monica

By Jonathan Friedman
Associate Editor

October 16, 2015 -- With little controversy, the City Council voted 6-0 on Tuesday for a mixed-use development on Fifth Street between Santa Monica Boulevard and Broadway in Downtown Santa Monica.

The six-story, 84-foot-tall building constructed by NMS Properties will feature 64 residential units, including 14 designated as affordable for lower-income residents.

Also included in the plans are more than 6,000 square feet of ground-floor commercial space and a three-level subterranean parking garage with 105 spaces.

The council approved another mixed-use project by the same developer at Tuesday's meeting. (“Santa Monica Council Approves Denny's Replacement Project,” October 15, 2015)

Council member Gleam Davis praised the project for having what she called a good mix of unit sizes. The breakdown is 13 studios, 31 one-bedrooms, 13 two-bedrooms and seven three-bedrooms.

“And I think it has a good mix of affordable housing,” Davis said.

The building exceeds the height limit for downtown structures, so NMS needed to enter into a development agreement with the City, which required the company to offer community benefits.

Among the benefits are the affordable units, preference for disabled tenants in at least half the affordable units, a local hiring program and various environmental concessions.

Also, NMS will pay nearly $600,000 for various City programs, including transportation, parks and recreation, early childhood initiatives and historic preservation.

The developer must create a marketing plan to attract potential tenants who are Santa Monica first-responders, employees of local hospitals and healthcare providers, local school district workers and employees of nearby businesses.

Marketing must exclusively be targeted to these people for the first 90 days.

Another feature of this development is that parking will be unbundled, meaning tenants will pay separately for parking, but do not have to pay for it if they choose not to get a space.

Mayor Kevin McKeown said unbundled parking is not always a good idea, but it was for this situation.

“I’d be hesitant on a boulevard where residents of the building might then park in the adjacent neighborhood where parking is already scarce,” McKeown said. “But this is in the heart of downtown. There’s no preferential parking nearby."

He continued, “And this is going to be in easy walking distance of the Expo line. So if we’re moving toward a multi-mobile society, this is where unbundled parking does make sense.”

Several public speakers addressed the council about the project prior to the vote.

Santa Monica College student leader Jonathan Hughes praised the building's deisgn, the inclusion of solar panels and the affordable housing feature. He said it would appeal to students looking for housing.

Among the detractors were neighborhood group leaders who said it was too big and did not contain enough multi-room units. They also wanted the council not to make a decision until the Downtown Specific Plan is approved, possibly next June.

Activist Ellen Brennan added she disagreed with several people who said the structure would be beautiful.

“That’s a hideous looking building,” she said. “I don’t think there’s anything attractive about it at all.”

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