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Commissioners Rip Denny’s Replacement Project

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and MarkHarding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP  law firm
Harding, Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

Pacific Park, Santa Monica Pier

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By Jonathan Friedman
Associate Editor

July 1, 2014 -- Kind words were not plentiful last Wednesday when members of the Planning Commission shared their opinions on the proposed design for a 103,000-square-foot mixed-use project that would replace a Denny’s on Lincoln Boulevard off Colorado Avenue.

Commissioner Gerda Newbold said, “There’s not much I like about the design,” while Commission Vice Chair Jason Parry called the proposed look “fundamentally wrong for the site.”

Among the issues Newbold, Parry and others commissioners had with the proposal was what Parry called a “solid wall” along Lincoln Boulevard.

“What makes sense is what we’ve seen with other projects where they orient the buildings to take advantage of the prevailing breezes … allowing for light and air to penetrate the site and also providing visual access into the site from the street.” Parry said. “I think having the solid wall here on Lincoln in particular is a mistake, at least above the second floor.”

Newbold added, “The expanse along Lincoln is just not acceptable. I feel it looks more like a commercial property than a residential property.”

The proposal from developer NMS Properties calls for a 60-foot-high, five-story building featuring 100 residential units (including 20 “affordable” units), 11,500 square feet of commercial space and a three-level subterranean parking garage with 235 spaces.

Because the proposal does not comply with several zoning restrictions, NMS must go into a development agreement with the City. As with all development agreements, the applicant must offer so-called public benefits.

Among the community benefits on the table in this early stage of negotiation are affordable housing, an outdoor plaza featuring open space, expanded sidewalks and measures “that would reduce vehicular trips and parking demand generated by the proposed project,” according to the staff report.

The proposal was before the commission for a float-up review to garner feedback. Staff negotiation on the development agreement will continue, and then the project will return to the Planning Commission for a hearing and recommendation.

The Planning Commission’s review will be followed by a City Council hearing and decision. The Architectural Review Board will have a final say on the design.

The Denny’s replacement project is one of several mixed-use proposals for the portion of Lincoln Boulevard that is located less than half a mile from the future Expo Light Rail station at the corner of Colorado Avenue and Fourth Street.

Another of the proposed Lincoln Boulevard projects was also before the Planning Commission last Wednesday for a float-up review. It will replace Norms restaurant, which is located across the street from Denny’s. Norms closed last year after being open for nearly 50 years.

This proposal from developer FSTAR calls for two buildings with heights of 47 feet (four-story) and 57 feet (five-story) featuring 90 residential units (including 18 “affordable” units), 10,600 square feet of commercial space and two levels of subterranean parking with 168 spaces.

Commissioners shared a range of opinions about this project, which as with the Denny’s replacement proposal will need to go through a development agreement process before final approval.

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