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Opponents Fail to Talk Developer into Scaling Down Gelson's Project


Bob Kronovetrealty
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By Jorge Casuso

April 15, 2024 -- A last-ditch effort by opponents of an approved 521-unit residential project on Lincoln Boulevard failed to scale down Santa Monica's largest housing development in nearly 60 years.

That meeting between representatives from the Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City (SMCLC) and the developer, Cypress Equity, did not reduce the project on the Gelson's site by "even one unit," SMCLC said in a letter to its supporters Monday.

"After we finished our presentation, we were told that their investor will back out if the number of units is scaled back, so there is nothing they can do," the letter said.

The expected outcome of the meeting, which was also attended by Ocean Park and Sunset Park residents, comes after the Architectural Review Board (ARB) voted 5 to 0 last month to approve the project ("Gelson's Project Gets First and Final Board Approval," March 5, 2024).

The approval was a foregone conclusion under California's Housing Accountability Act (HAA), which precludes the City from denying or imposing any conditions on any housing project, including reducing the number of units.

The Coalition's letter notes that Cypress representatives "pointed out that the State Legislature has passed laws largely overriding local control over zoning, so they are within their rights to build without meaningful City or resident input."

During the meeting --- which SMCLC described as "friendly and professional" -- Cypress representatives "listened courteously" to "the myriad issues residents have with their project."

That it is "too big and out-of-scale with the existing neighborhood," that it does not require a traffic study and that most of the units are small one-bedroom apartments that are "more like dorms than long-term housing."

"We also expressed how reducing their plans could turn a bad project into a good one, and since Cypress has other projects slated for Santa Monica some compromise with residents might serve their long-term interests," the letter said.

"Cypress didn’t disagree or pushback on any of our points."

The Coalition plans to turn its focus to Sacramento, where "as our lawyer later told us, the California Legislature has been taken over by real estate interests and has gutted local City planning."

An "important battle" could be waged at the ballot box in 2026, where voters could decide the outcome of a state-wide initiative sponsored by Livable California that "could help restore local control," the Coalition said.

Cypress Equity said it "has no further comment."

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