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Appeal of ARB Apple Approval Denied  

As of September 1, 2011, ALL 1,875 retail establishments are prohibited from providing light-weight, single-use plastic carryout bags to customers at the point of sale. MORE

By Ann K. Williams
Lookout Staff

October 21, 2011 -- The Planning Commission spent more than an hour early Thursday morning going over plans for a new downtown Apple store before denying an appeal of the Architectural Review Board's (ARB's) recent approval of the building proposed for 1415 Third Street Promenade.

The appellant, Santa Monica architect Dan Jansenson, wanted to give the ARB another chance to question whether the innovative glass structure will be able to comply with state energy codes without modifications to its appearance, but the early morning debate branched out into questions of aesthetics, landscaping, even the placement of bike racks.

“This discussion has veered significantly away from the core of my appeal,” which Jansenson said was “What happens if [the developer] can't meet Title 24 [California energy codes]?”

He argued that when the ARB passed the responsibility for making sure the building met code to city staff, it had ceded too much of its regulatory power.

“You're passing the responsibility that normally is given to a citizens group that has been formed for the purpose of reviewing these things; you're passing that on to staff,” Jansenson said.

Ultimately, the commission voted down the appeal, although it did add a condition to its vote that if the appearance of the structure is changed at all because of Title 24 compliance, the plans will have to go back before the ARB.

But Jansenson's appeal did list other issues – from the building's design, its materials, lack of design consistency with nearby structures and lack of landscaping.

And that, apparently, was enough to get the ball rolling on a debate about a range of issues, issues that had not been discussed when the commission originally passed the plans on its consent calendar in August.

ARB Chair Michael Folonis, speaking as a private citizen, repeated his earlier objections to the facade's lack of fenestration, of articulation.

“Because of its transparency there is no design there,” said Folonis.

Commissioner Richard McKinnon challenged Folonis' opinion.

“Isn't that the design, there is no design?” asked McKinnon.

Jack Walter, whose development on Stewart Street has been in the planning pipeline since 2007 – plans for which he changed when the Planning Commission said it lacked articulation, – said that the minimalist glass facade of the Apple store “could be a little more edgy than just a sheet of glass.”

Even Jansenson spoke up, when asked for his opinions by Commissioner Jason Parry, saying he didn't think the building fit in with its neighbors because of the contrast between its materials and those used by the buildings around it.

But, with some reservations about the store's alley frontage, most of the commissioners seemed to approve of the structure's aesthetic, described by its architect as “elegant thoughtful minimalism.”

Parry tried to float an amendment requiring landscaping in the alley. He said that the design guidelines required it, but none of his colleagues on the dais was willing to second his amendment.

Chair Jim Ries was not happy with the placement of the bike racks in the alley, and said the commission should put some thought into better bike parking for future projects.

Ries and commissioners Gerda Newbold, Jennifer Kennedy, Ted Winterer and McKinnon voted for a motion turning down Jansenson's appeal, with the provision that any changes in the building's appearance due to Title 24 compliance be brought before the ARB. Parry voted no.

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