Santa Monica Lookout
|Santa Monica Council Gives Unenthusiastic Approval to City Yards Concept Plan|
By Jonathan Friedman
February 2, 2015 -- With only four City Council members remaining at the meeting late Tuesday night, the short-handed panel gave municipal staff its blessing to move forward with the redevelopment of the 15-acre City Yards property at 2500 Michigan Avenue.
Council members had many questions about the master plan that is still in an early stage. The project will go before the council several more times before construction could begin, possibly in 2017.
“I guess there’s not tremendous enthusiasm at this point for this plan, but as has been noted, there are only four of us here tonight, and we’re going to either move something forward or we’re not,” Mayor Kevin McKeown said just before the council voted 4 to 0 to approve the plan in concept.
The council vote also gave staff the go-ahead to issue a request for bids for a design team and to prepare a financing plan for the project’s initial phases.
The City Yards is used for facilities maintenance, recycling, municipal hazardous waste storage and fire department training, among other functions.
The property has been under municipal ownership since the 1940s, and Public Works Director Martin Pastucha said it has been “cramped and outdated” since at least the 1990s.
The plan calls for the redevelopment to be done in 15 phases so the property can continue to operate throughout the project.
An early estimate for the cost is $115 million, and the funding would come through what City staff described as “long-term public works reserves, enterprise funds, public/private financing for the parking structure and other financial opportunities.”
Council members expressed several concerns. Ted Winterer said he hoped the new buildings could be “stacked higher” so that room could be made for more open space.
Council members asked if there were any issues with a portion of the property having been used as a landfill that closed in the 1950s.
Pastucha said the landfill issue should not be a concern because it was not used for traditional garbage items such as diapers, but rather “inert material as well as some organics --- trees and limbs put in there at some time mixed in with a lot of rock, concrete and dirt.”
Council member Sue Himmelrich asked if this was the right property for the project because it was on what she said would soon be “incredibly valuable real estate” due to its close proximity to a future Expo line stop.
“Why are we putting basically a public works yard within a quarter mile of the Metro stop, when if we [repurposed] this property, it could be so incredibly valuable to us?” she asked.
City Manager Rod Gould, who was attending his final meeting, responded that although there were “higher and better uses” for the property, what happens on the site is needed for the city to function.
He said if the property were used for another purpose, those former functions would have to take place somewhere else, and he questioned if there were any alternative locations.
“The simple answer is we can’t think of any,” Gould said. “And even if you could begin to imagine somewhere in Santa Monica where you could begin to wedge in 15 acres of this heavy use, we think the community opposition would be overwhelming.”
Also at the meeting, the council approved an initial stage toward the development of a 50,000-square-foot City Services Building between City Hall and the Public Safety complex that would house additional staff and function as a “one-stop shop” for residents to receive permits.
|copyrightCopyright 1999-2015 surfsantamonica.com. All Rights Reserved.||Disclosures|