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Convention and Visitors Bureau Santa Monica

By Jonathan Friedman
Associate Editor

October 7, 2016 -- A small property vacant since 2003 on 19th Street between Santa Monica Boulevard and Broadway could soon be the site of a medical office building.

The Planning Commission approved the project on Wednesday over the objection of a neighborhood group leader who said it needed further review.

The proposal for the 7,500-square-foot site sandwiched between another medical office building and a six-unit apartment calls for a two-story, nearly 5,300-square-foot structure with 21 at-grade and subterranean parking spaces.

Mojdeh Memarzadeh, designer of the project, said she spoke with the apartment residents, and they told her they favored a medical building over any other possible option.

None of those residents addressed the commission at the meeting.

Andrew Hoyer, vice president of Santa Monica Mid City Neighbors, told the commission he would have liked to have spoken to those residents because he thought he might receive a different opinion.

Hoyer added that the project was never presented to Mid City Neighbors because the applicant had requested a meeting too late to get on the monthly agenda prior to the commission hearing.

"I have no idea how my membership feel about this because there was no chance to vet it in front of them," Hoyer said.

Memarzadeh said that it was unfortunate that she had not been able to arrange a presentation. But she said a member of the Mid City Neighbors board, who she did not identify, called her and said he preferred a “burger joint” be built on the site.

This property has been zoned commercial since February when the City Council changed it from residential.

That change was done mostly without controversy. But just three months earlier when the Planning Commission considered the change, it ended the session deadlocked 3-3.

The commission heard from neighborhood activists opposed to what they called "spot zoning."

"If the zoning change is approved, other property owners might see an advantage in making requests for similar changes, and it will serve as an unfortunate precedent when it comes to preserving neighborhood in Santa Monica," Friends of Sunset Park President Zina Josephs told the commission at that December 2015 meeting.

City staff had recommended the change because they said the property was historically commercial and had been inadvertently adjusted to residential during last year’s zoning ordinance update.

The property had been the site of various commercial operations through the years until all the structures there were demolished in 2003, staff said.

Hoyer alleged there had once been a house on the property. Activists made the same allegation at the December 2015 hearing.

Planning commissioners did not spend too much time addressing the zoning issue. They focused on parking and how vehicles could access the property.

Commissioner Richard McKinnon opposed the project because a majority of the vehicles would access the site through the street rather than a back alley. His vote was the only one in opposition.

Also at the meeting the commission voted to name Amy Anderson as its new chair. She has been on the commission since 2012. Nina Fresco was selected as vice chair. She joined the commission last year.

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