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Santa Monica to Challenge Playa Vista Phase II Project

By Jorge Casuso

September 30 --In a late-night action, the Santa Monica City Council voted 4 to 0 to mount a legal challenge to the Playa Vista Phase II development, which will bring 2,600 more homes and many new businesses to the area.

The project, called The Village at Playa Vista, is located about four miles south of Santa Monica on Jefferson Boulevard east of Lincoln Boulevard.

Tuesday's vote comes one wek after the Los Angeles City Council voted 10 to 1 to approve an environmental impact report for the project, bringing to a close a long and rancorous debate over development of the Ballona Wetlands area and setting the stage for future legal battles.

Santa Monica Council members fear the second phase development will create more traffic gridlock in Santa Monica, said Mayor Richard Bloom.

“The traffic impacts on Santa Monica were not studied sufficiently,” Bloom said. “We will either initiate or join a lawsuit” against the City of Los Angeles seeking to overturn the environmental approval.

"The public process surrounding Playa Vista," said Councilman Michael Feinstein, "has long ignored the concerns of Santa Monicans and others around the region about the negative impacts it would have on the quality of life on the Westside and the health of the wetlands and the bay.

"I'm sorry it had to come to this, but our responsibility is to stand up for the community of Santa Monica and that's what we're going to do," he said.

Many opponents of the project want the acreage -- which sits between Playa Vista’s phase one development of single-family homes and the historic Howard Hughes industrial site -- preserved for open space.

The project has been significantly reduced in scale from a previous plan, and hundreds of acres of wetlands west of Lincoln Boulevard have been turned over to State parks officials.

The council had discussed the Playa Vista issue in closed session as anticipated litigation prior to the public vote at 12:15 a.m., which took place after several council members had left the meeting, Bloom said.

Also voting to challenge Playa Vista were Mayor Pro Tem Kevin McKeown and Councilman Ken Genser.

Not all council members agreed with the legal challenge during the closed session discussion, Bloom said.

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