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Santa Monica Council Settles on 11-Member Advisory Group for Bergamot Project

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark

Pacific Park, Santa Monica Pier

Harding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP  law firm
Harding, Larmore
Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

By Jonathan Friedman
Associate Editor

February 13, 2015 -- Developers of the nearly $100 million project to revitalize the Bergamot Station Arts Center property on Santa Monica’s east end will have plenty of advice in making their plans.

The City Council on Tuesday approved the creation of an 11-member committee with duties that include “refining a conceptual plan” and “identification of an appropriate mix of uses for the site.”

Four members will be appointed by the Neighborhood Council, which is the umbrella group for the various slow-growth favoring neighborhood organizations. 

Another four people will be selected by the Bergamot Station Gallery and Cultural Association, which represents the gallerists and other groups at the current center.

The remaining three appointments will be made, with one each, by the Chamber of Commerce, the Santa Monica Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Arts Commission.

Council members said the Arts Commission’s appointee should be a person in charge of a “successful” Santa Monica nonprofit. If nobody local is available, the person can be operating a nonprofit outside the city.

No deadline was set on when the committee must be formed, but officials expected it to be finalized in the next month. It could possibly take place a little later, depending on when the boards of the groups making the appointments plan to meet.

The committee’s size is more than double what City staff had originally proposed. A plan went before the council in late November for five members, but it was rejected for being too small.

Staff had proposed nine members on Tuesday, and the council bumped it up another two after the Bergamot artists asked for an additional person. The second addition went to the Neighborhood Council.

This proposed project for the site abutting the City Yards has been a hot item, with some concerned it would feature too much development. The proposal for a hotel has added to the fear. There is also worry about the effect on the arts community, which has operated on the property for more than 20 years.

The City Council last September selected a team led by the Worthe Real Estate Group for the redevelopment project, which is on City land (although a portion of it could expand to private property). 

Worthe was selected against two other applicants, including one that was recommended by the City staff and a divided Arts Commission.

Among the features of Worthe’s proposal is 61,000 square feet of gallery space, a 21,000-square-foot redesign of the Santa Monica Museum of Art, 80,000-square-foot hotel, 44,000 square feet of creative office space, 5,000 square feet of restaurants and bars as well as 2,000 square feet of retail.

But the final product could look much different, as council members stressed they were selecting a developer and not a project. The advisory committee will have much to say, and the project will go through many reviews and approvals by various City panels, including the council.

Also on Tuesday, the council approved staff-recommended “guidelines” for what the project should feature. They include that the project should:

“Minimize displacement and disruption” to the fine art galleries and other “creative businesses” on the property “Incorporate space for additional nonprofit cultural uses”
“Support” the future adjacent Expo Station and bus service “through amenities and services, including consideration of facilities such as public restrooms”

Another guideline is that the project should feature a permanent home for the Santa Monica Museum of Art, or something similar if the museum is still not functioning.

Bergamot Station Ltd. rents the current property for $528,000 per year and subleases it to gallerists and various other tenants. The money generated from the lease, which will expire at the end of 2017, supports the Big Blue Bus.

The guidelines say the new development should continue to support the bus system and increase the funds the site is expected to generate.

This project is far from its opening stage. City staff said last year that the first shovel is not expected to hit the ground before 2017.

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