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Panel Calls for Greater Concentration of Art, No Hotel at Santa Monica's Bergamot Center
Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark
Roque & Mark Real Estate
2802 Santa Monica Boulevard
Santa Monica, CA 90404
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Harding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP  law firm
Harding, Larmore
Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

Convention and Visitors Bureau Santa Monica


By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

Correction: The Bergamot Transit Village was not proposed for the same site as the Bergamot Arts Center. It was to have been accross Olympic Boulevard, on the north side, between 26 and Stewart streets.

May 31, 2016 -- More than two years after public outcry and a successful referendum drive prompted City officials to ditch one of Santa Monica’s biggest proposed developments, an advisory panel for the Bergamot Station Arts Center accross the street is calling for far more arts-related uses but not a future six-story hotel.

In its final report to the council this month, the Bergamot Advisory Committee recommended a two-phased approach to revitalizing the five acres of the seven-acre site owned by the City, which is currently an eclectic collection of art galleries and related business.

“It was important to us that the Bergamot Art Center retain its essence and valuable arts reputation and that these assets be preserved and enhanced through changes to the site,” the committee said in its final report May 17. “Of equal importance is the community’s desire to maintain the unique character that defines Bergamot, as residents expressed repeatedly,”

After staff review, the recommendations will go the City Council later in the year for action, officials said.

The project’s site on 26th Street has been a source of contention for years with development-weary community groups, and the committee recommended that any future proposals require “extraordinary scrutiny and transparency.”

Under the new recommendations, the first phase would see a 60-percent increase in the space earmarked for arts and cultural uses, or 100,000 square feet instead of the 60,000 square feet initially recommended by the Worthe Group, the developer picked by the City for the new Bergamot revitalization plan. ("Council Rejects City Staff's Recommendation for Bergamot Arts Center Developer," September 11, 2014)

An April 16 report by the committee to the City Council calls for five new mostly single-story buildings to house more galleries, arts-related and non-profit spaces, a museum, a community center a restaurant and commercial office space.

The rest of the buildings in Phase 1 are slated for commercial uses, at market rate rents, including a café, a full-service restaurant and creative office space, the report sais. All told, the new recommendations would encompass 137,400 square feet.

The committee said it also supports building a new museum next to the new Expo 26th/Bergamot Light Rail station, especially now that the Santa Monica Museum of Art has permanently moved to a less expensive location in Downtown Los Angeles after its rent at Bergamot was raised last year from $7,900 a month to $16,000.("Santa Monica Museum of Art Finds New Home in Downtown LA," May 10, 2016).

“The right, financially viable museum would draw visitors to Bergamot, increase exposure to the existing arts businesses, and enable more coordinated arts-related events than currently exists now that the Santa Monica Museum of Art (SMMoA) has left Bergamot Station,” the panel said.

It also recommended reconfiguring the proposed museum’s two-story design by placing about half of the building below ground and splitting the above ground building into two separate wings so Bergamot remains visible from Olympic Boulevard.

But the developer's proposal for a six-story hotel to be open in 2022 -- the project’s second phase -– fell short of being recommended by one vote.

Although a majority of the 11-member panel agrees on Phase 1, “we are at a crossroads over constructing the hotel,” the report from the committee said.

The committee was first deadlocked on Worthe’s proposed six-story, 100-room hotel with art galleries on the ground floor -- a plan Worthe had scaled back from a seven-story, 83,000 square-foot hotel with 120 guest rooms and a maximum height of 86 feet.

Following that March meeting, a missing Committee member reviewed all of the information provided at the session, listened to the meeting audiotape and then joined with the five committee members who opposed the hotel, the report said.

If both phases are built, Worthe estimates that the City’s Big Blue Bus system would receive $50 million under a 55-year ground lease. The City would receive approximately $33.2 million in estimated sales taxes and fees and also collect about $125 million in transit occupancy taxes.

But detractors, including community members who attended the proceedings, were far from concerned about the revenues the hotel would produce for the City, the report said. They viewed the blueprints as more “corporate” looking than boutique and worried the hotel would add too much traffic to existing congestion. In the end, “we could not reach consensus” the report said.

The location is accross olympic boulevard from the site of the proposed Bergamot Transit Village, a 765,000-square-foot office, residential and retail development narrowly approved by the City Council in February 2014 after years of debate ("Santa Monica City Council Narrowly Approves Bergamot Transit Village," February 5, 2014).

The Council rescinded the vote the following May after public outcry that included gathering enough valid signatures for a referendum on the project’s fate. ("Council Repeals Approval of Controversial Development," May 14, 2014).

Among the committee’s other recommendations were providing adjacent parking of not less than 561 shared parking spaces offsite to replace the existing surface parking at Bergamot for its existing and new businesses and visitors (211 spaces) and City Yards employees (350 spaces) before Phase I construction begins.

It also recommended preserving the majority of the existing industrial warehouse buildings to protect Bergamot’s character and retaining the existing Bergamot tenants temporarily displaced by construction, if they choose to remain.

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