By Sonya Sultan, SMRR Steering Committee
On February 4, the Santa Monica City Council voted 4-3 to approve the controversial Hines Development Agreement (DA) with only minor revisions and certify the environmental impact report (EIR). SMRR-endorsed Council members Kevin McKeown, Tony Vasquez, and Ted Winterer voted NO.
SMRR played a key leadership role in community opposition to the massive development project proposed by Hines for the long vacant Papermate site at 26th Street and Olympic Boulevard. Due to major concerns about inadequate affordable housing, increased traffic congestion, and insufficient open space, the SMRR Steering Committee voted unanimously to urge City Council to reject the Hines DA as proposed. SMRR leadership spoke in opposition to the project at a January 28th Council meeting and at a large rally outside City Hall prior to Council’s February 4th discussion and vote.
The Steering Committee believes the Hines project will worsen the traffic gridlock plaguing our community by adding nearly 400,000 square feet of new commercial office space at a key location in the already severely congested Olympic Boulevard corridor. The EIR revealed that the project will generate more than 7,000 car trips per day and that the impact of those car trips on Santa Monica streets and intersections can not be alleviated by mitigation measures. We favor a largely residential project with more truly affordable housing, ground floor neighborhood serving retail and significant open space. We are convinced that another huge office complex is not what Santa Monica needs. Especially in the same east-west corridor where the Water Garden, Colorado Center, and the Arboretum (over 3,000,000 square feet of traffic intensive commercial office space) were all approved in the 1980’s.
We do not believe the minimal benefits offered are remotely sufficient to merit accepting Hines’ failure to provide the amount of affordable housing called for in the LUCE and in the Bergamot Area Plan or the severe traffic burden imposed by the project. Nor do we have confidence that the measures intended by Hines to mitigate traffic will be effective or reliable over the long term, even with the proximity of the long awaited Exposition Light Rail project.
A signature gathering effort is underway to place a referendum on the ballot to overturn the Council’s action, and a lawsuit challenging the sufficiency of the EIR under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) also appears to be in the works.
On February 8 the SMRR Steering Committee voted to support the Referendum on the Hines DA. Additional information can be found here.