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Apartment Project Near Freeway that Triggered Health Concerns Returns to Santa Monica Planning Commission


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By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

April 2, 2018 -- A proposed apartment complex on Lincoln Boulevard, initially deemed by City officials as being too imposing and too close to the Santa Monica Freeway, heads back to the Planning Commission on Wednesday with a recommendation of approval after changes to the blueprints.

Developed by WNMS Communities, the five-story, 69,896-square-foot mixed-use project at 1650 Lincoln Boulevard, is one of many such developments meant to turn the commuter thoroughfare into more of a family neighborhood.

The proposed building includes 98 apartments atop approximately 7,135 square feet of ground floor commercial space. A three-level subterranean parking garage accommodates 205 automobiles and 173 bicycles, the staff report said.

Included are eight units restricted to “extremely low” income earners, or $18,950 for a household of one.

WNMS Apartments on Lincoln previous version
Previous version of mixed-use project at 1650 Lincoln Boulevard that the Planning Commission deemed too "corporate" in feel (Courtesy WNMS)

When the project first went to the commission in February, its members expressed worries about the massing, its "corporate" rather than residential "feel" and the “potential health risks due to the project’s proximity to the I-10 freeway,” the report said.

Action was postponed pending redesign.

The massing now “includes breaks that will allow natural light and air to penetrate the project interior and enhance the quality of the important courtyard space,” the staff said.

“These positive design changes have occurred without the loss of any market rate or affordable residential units,” the report said.

Revised plan for WNMS project at 1650 Lincoln
Revised version of project (Courtesy WNMS)

Additionally, WNMS hired a consultant to assess any airborne risks stemming from the project’s nearness to the busy freeway.

City staff said the consultant, Air Quality Dynamics, concluded “there should not be any significant risks associated with carcinogens, carbon monoxide, or nitrous oxide.

"Preventative measures to improve air quality within the project were recommended and have been included as conditions of approval."

Noncarcinogenic hazards (i.e. carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, and particulate matters) are also predicted to be within acceptable levels,” the report said.

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The report also highlights a health risk assessment prepared for an affordable housing project at 1626 Lincoln Boulevard, which is about 486 feet from the I-10 freeway.

In that case, based on air quality modeling of motor vehicle emissions from I-10 and Highway, it was determined “health risks thresholds would not be exceeded at that location,” the staff report said.

That is due to "a significant drop" in traffic on the freeway west of Lincoln with few diesel trucks and slower speeds and "prevailing winds that blow east and northeast from the coast away from Downtown,' the report said.

“These conditions for vehicle air emissions in the vicinity of Downtown are different from I-10 in inland areas, where traffic volumes and speeds are generally higher, fleet mix includes more trucks, and prevailing winds are more variable,” the report said.

Staff is recommending the project be granted a Development Review Permit from the commission, which has the final vote unless an appeal is filed.

The revised design is still contemporary, and “incorporates a modern commercial storefront system along the building frontage allowing for a transparent pedestrian level,” the staff report said.

The ground floor along Lincoln Boulevard features a total of three commercial retail tenant spaces.

The project centers around a 6,550 square foot ground floor landscaped courtyard, which includes such amenities as an outdoor kitchen and dining area, fireside seating, outdoor lounge theater, and a Jacuzzi and a gym.

Additional landscaped open spaces are integrated into the residential portions of the project, located on the 3rd floor and at the rooftop level.


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