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Planning Commission Gives a Tentative Go-Ahead to 301 Ocean Avenue Condos  

By Jason Islas
Special to the Lookout

April 22, 2011 --The Planning Commission gave a conditional green light Wednesday to 301 Ocean Development LLC for their 20-unit condominium project at the corner of Ocean Avenue and San Vincente Boulevard.

20-Unit Condominium Development at 301 Ocean Avenue.
Rendering courtesy of the Architect, Howard Laks Architects

“From the staff's perspective we find the project compatible in all areas with both the block and the surrounding area,” Eileen Fogarty, director of Planning and Community Development, told the commissioners.

The Architectural Review Board (ARB) had denied 301 Ocean Development's original application because, among other things, they believed the proposed design “was not well integrated into its site” and did “not suit its context.”

But Senior Planner Tony Kim said that the city found that the new design addressed these and other concerns of the ARB and the community and as a result, he recommended the commission approve the appeal.

Almost 40 members of the community came to the meeting to offer their opinions about the new design, and not all they had to say was positive.

Dale Goldsmith of Armbruster Goldsmith & Delvac LLP addressed the point that the ARB claimed that the proposed Spanish Revival architectural style did not fit the neighborhood. “Nothing in the zoning code gives the ARB the ability to dictate style,” he said.

Many members of the community came out to support the project. Michael Gruning called it “architecturally elegant” while Terry Graboski, a former member of the ARB, called it “one of the best projects” he had seen.

Long-time Santa Monica resident Diane Miller said, “I strongly objected to the first design.” But she complimented the designer’s willingness to work with the community to redesign the project based on community input. She added that she was eager to see the project's go forward.

However, there were some who weren't so pleased.

“The design completely misses the mark,” said Dwayne Howard, another long-time resident of Santa Monica. He called it “little more than an island compound gated community, detached and isolated from its surroundings.”

Another speaker referred to the design as a “monstrosity.”

Landmarks Commissioner Margaret Bach recommended that the project, which she said was not “harmonious with its surroundings,” be returned to the ARB for further review. She also took issue with the staff report, saying that she didn't believe that the Spanish Revival style was approved as the report claims.

Lynn Robb, vice chair of the ARB, said that the rejection wasn't about whether or not Spanish Revival style fit the community. She said it was about the developer's lack of responsiveness to the ARB's comments.

“We could not vote for something that in its first presentation we felt needed revisions when it came back to us identically,” Robb said.

Commissioner Hank Koning thought that the design was boring, but didn't see this as grounds for denying the appeal. Commissioner Jason Parry echoed Commissioner Koning's point.

The Commission unanimously approved the appeal, but recommended that the ARB look at the design again to make sure that it is appropriate for the location.

At the same meeting, the Commission also voted to extend the Design Compatibility Permit and Development Review Permit for the property at 525 Broadway Avenue for another two years. The property is involved in a legal settlement because the previous developers were unable to meet their affordable housing obligation.

Since then, the property has changed hands. For more information regarding the 525 Broadway Avenue property, see the Lookout article of April 14, 2011, City Makes Deal to Resolve Dispute In Wake of Developer's Default.


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