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ARB Gives Major Projects Mixed Reviews

By Joshua Wachtel

Dec. 18 -- The Architectural Review Board this week gave the go-ahead to a new apartment building on Santa Monica’s beachfront, held off on approving two large mixed-used projects Downtown and shrunk the proposed mug of Colonel Sanders on Pico Boulevard.

The new 14-unit apartment building with two levels of subterranean parking on Appian Way got a general thumbs up Monday night after a laundry list of previous concerns relating to noise, landscaping and articulation was addressed.

Greg Cole, whose proposed addition to his nearby home was approved by the Planning Commission after a contentious process that pitted neighbor against neighbor, was most concerned that the finished apartment building would be noisy.

Architectural Review Board Chair Sergio Zeballos worried that the design -- which featured gray tinted glass -- looked too commercial. Reducing the tint was among the conditions placed by the board, which unanimously approved the 21,720-square-foot, three-story project.

The four board members present at the meeting, however, couldn't muster the unanimous vote necessary to approve two projects in the heart of Downtown.

A six-story, 50-unit apartment building with ground floor retail and subterranean parking near 5th Street and Santa Monica Boulevard was continued despite the board's enthusiasm for the general design and for a walkway through the ground floor of the 51,875-square-foot building.

“What I’m liking most are the eccentricities and not the predictable parts,” said board member William Adams, adding that the walkway needed to be more interesting and more attention should be paid to the details. “The building is about detail,” Adams said.

Board members also suggested that the planters and landscaping blocking the retail windows be removed. “I’m ready to get rid of it now,” said board member Iris Oliveras.

The developer, Craig Jones, agreed that the landscape obstructed the retail and the architects agreed that more attention should be paid to the details.

Similar sentiments about landscaping once again sent back a 39-unit mixed-use development at 430 Arizona Avenue near the Main Post Office. The board asked the architect to move the landscaping from the sidewalk area to the inner courtyard, where the retail access was located.

Other details plagued instead of enhanced this project, and the redesign failed to meet previous concerns expressed by the board, while raising new ones, according to staff report, which noted that the project “was an important location in the city.”

Among the concerns were boring windows and a "phony," small replica of the Arc de Triomphe, a Paris monument commemorating Napoleon’s victories, French soldiers and the unknown soldier from WWI.

In one case where a retail feature was too strong, the Kentucky Fried Chicken on the corner of Pico Boulevard and Stewart Street was required to reduce its new signage to code by shrinking the mug of the Colonel and the sign out front.

Since the building itself was considered an internationally recognizable sign, the board approved the project with smaller signs and other conditions.
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