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Neighbors Lose Bid to Stop Apartment Complex on Santa Monica’s Lincoln Boulevard


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By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

April 26, 2018 -- Residents lost a bid on Tuesday to stop a four-story mixed-use development on Lincoln Boulevard they said will rise up, without a buffer, next to single family homes and pour more traffic onto streets already mostly gridlocked.

The council voted unanimously against the appeal filed by neighbors of the City Planning Commission’s January 10 approval of the 59,319-square-foot project at 2903 Lincoln Boulevard, between Ashland Avenue and Wilson Place.

Developed by the CIM Group, the project, which abides by the City's zoning code, includes 47 apartments in the upper stories, ground-floor businesses and a two-level underground garage for 151 vehicles and 98 bicycles ("Mixed-Use Project on Lincoln Will Have “Devastating” Impact, Neighbors Claim in Appeal," April 23, 2018) .

Although preceded by a lengthy hearing and much questioning of both sides by the council, in the end its members voted down the appeal with almost no comment.

“Why talk when your hands are tied,” said Councilmember Kevin McKeown.

McKeown said that State law "prohibits local agencies from denying or diminishing housing projects, absent very difficult findings of a threat to public safety — findings which could not be made.

“On strong legal advice," McKeown said, "the Council had no real choice but to accept the project as proposed, on the state-mandated premise that the production of housing represents a greater good.”

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In rejecting the appeal, the council followed recommendations of staff, which countered objections of neighbors in a report to the council and concluded the “physical location, size, massing, setbacks, pedestrian orientation” meet standards.

It also said it will be “compatible and relate harmoniously to surrounding sites and neighborhoods in that the proposed project includes a mixed-use commercial and residential building that complies with the General Commercial zoning district development standards.”

Proposed project at 2903 Lincoln Boulevard
Rendering of proposed mixed-use project at 2903 Lincoln Boulevard (Courtesy CIM)

Overall, the appeal alleged discrepancies by City planners in noticing to the public, height calculations and traffic impacts. It also said the City had failed to adequately look at public health and safety issues and other irregularities.

A key issue for neighbors was the potential jump in traffic generated by the development on a site once populated by small auto repair shops and other low traffic-generating businesses.

Much of Tuesday’s discussion revolved around Ashland and Wilson, narrow streets already packed most times of the day, residents said.

Mayor Ted Winterer, who lives nearby but on the other side of Lincoln, agreed with some of the traffic horror stories.

“Ashland is a freakin’ mess,” he said.

Officials noted that the impact of some traffic issues had been analyzed, but said that a complete dive into such issues is not required by the California Environmental Quality Act because the project involves housing close to mass transit.

But one neighbor said the complex will not address the critical issue for Santa Monica (and California in general) of increasing housing that is affordable not just to low-income earners but those from the middle class.

“The only housing we need is affordable housing,” Abdel Gotti told the council. “Luxury housing is not needed.”

The complex is to include four units reserved for “extremely” low-income earners, or about 7.5 percent -- “the minimum,” said Councilmember Sue Himmelrich.


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