Santa Monica Lookout
|Planning Commission Approves Complicated Arrangement for New Santa Monica Fire Station||
By Jonathan Friedman
April 11, 2016 -- A new Downtown Santa Monica fire station got the go-ahead from the Planning Commission on Wednesday, but building that facility in a timely manner could depend on the fate of a mixed-use development proposed for Lincoln Boulevard.
The site for the nearly 27,000-square-foot fire station is a private parking lot at 1337 Seventh Street owned by NMS Properties across the street from the public library.
NMS will give the City the property in exchange for two municipal parcels on Fifth Street and the right to do a complicated parking lot construction plan involving its proposed mixed-use development at 1430 Lincoln Boulevard.
To make up for the loss of the lot at the future fire station site, NMS will build a temporary one at 1430 Lincoln.
Legal complications require NMS to move the temporary parking spaces to the properties on Fifth Street and another at 1318 Lincoln before the end of 2018.
If all goes as planned, the program will conclude with all the temporary parking lots closing in the year 2022 and replaced with permanent facilities at the new development at 1430 Lincoln.
The years of closure for the temporary lots at 1430 Lincoln (2018) and the other locations (2022) are established in the agreements. Extension requests would require NMS to return to the Planning Commission.
Prior to approving conditional-use permits for the temporary lots, Commission Chair Richard McKinnon said he wasn't happy to support new private surface lots, but he knew it was for the public good.
“Sometimes in government, you have to do things you’d prefer not to do because ultimately what you’re doing has a benefit to everyone,” McKinnon said.
“The need to have faster response times and have a fire station and public safety at the absolute cutting edge is beyond doubt, especially as the downtown gets more residents in it," he said.
The five-story, nearly 68,000-square-foot development planned for 1430 Lincoln was not on the agenda, but it was on the minds of commissioners.
Since the proposed development is part of this complex puzzle, commissioners asked City staff if its approval is needed to get the fire station built.
Staff members would not give a direct answer and noted that negotiations on the development are still taking place.
An early-stages plan for the 1430 Lincoln development features 100 residential units and nearly 6,000 square feet of commercial development.
The commission is scheduled to discuss “concept plans” for the project on April 20. The City Council will have final say on the project, which will require a development agreement between NMS and the City.
The new fire station would replace the smaller one a few blocks away on Seventh Street that was built in 1955.
Officials say the existing station is not adequate for modern needs because of its age, size and condition. The lifespan of the new one will be 50 years.
Commissioners were mostly complimentary of the proposal for the station, although McKinnon said he found it “disturbing,” the facility would not meet the highest standard in environmentally friendly design of LEED platinum.
“It seems to me it is very difficult for us to sit here and continue to ask the private applicants who come before us time after time to achieve the edge in environmental issues, but not hold the City to exactly the same standard,” McKinnon said.
City officials said they “hoped” the station would meet the LEED gold standard, the second-highest rating. They said cost was a factor in not being able to reach the platinum level.
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