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Proposed Santa Monica Movie Theater Complex Set for Planning Review

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark

Pacific Park, Santa Monica Pier

Harding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP  law firm
Harding, Larmore
Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

Convention and Visitors Bureau Santa Monica

By Jonathan Friedman
Associate Editor

August 7, 2015 -- The third project in what is expected to be part of a movie theater renaissance in Downtown Santa Monica will head to the Planning Commission for an initial review later this month.

The development team behind the proposed project on Fourth Street off Arizona Avenue will give what’s called a float-up presentation to the commission on August 19.

The project is a joint venture between Santa Monica Place owner Macerich and the theater chain ArcLight, which is a subsidiary of Pacific Theatres Exhibition Corp. The two companies are already partnering on a movie theater project at Santa Monica Place set to open in November.

Current plans for the Fourth Street theater call for a 100,000-square-foot mixed-use development featuring an 84-foot-high, four-story building with up to 16 movie screens and approximately 2,700 seats.

The development would also include 10,000 square feet of ground floor retail/restaurant space that would be separate from the theater.

The new building would replace an existing parking structure.

Because the proposed massing of the development does not meet local zoning standards, the project applicants must enter into a development agreement with the City. As with all development agreements, so-called public benefits must be offered.

Public benefits will be negotiated between City staff and the applicants, with the City Council getting the final say. A staff report lists several potential benefits on the table. They include:

  • Community groups' use of movie theater auditoriums during certain parts of the day
  • Movie screens available for film markets and festivals
  • Public art displayed on the site
  • Transportation plan to reduce the number of vehicle trips associated with the project
  • Environmentally friendly construction
  • Local hiring program
  • Financial contribution to support “pedestrian enhancements in the Downtown”
  • Building or funding of an “enhanced crosswalk”

The float-up presentation is an early step in the approval process. Commissioners are expected to ask questions and make suggestions. The proposal will return to the commission later for a recommendation, which will go to the City Council and Architectural Review Board for final approval.

If the project is approved, it would lead to the development of a third major movie theater project in the area. The 44-year-old Laemmle Monica 4-Plex on Second Street is being renovated and was expected to reopen in May, although the project has fallen behind.

The facility, which will be called Monica Film Center when it reopens, will include six movie theater auditoriums as well as a restaurant, lounge and rooftop deck with an ocean view. The Santa Monica Place theater will feature 12 screens and 1,475 seats.

Santa Monica was once considered a regional leader in the cinema business but has fallen behind the times in recent decades as other nearby communities have opened movie theaters with better seating and technology. The Santa Monica Place theater will be the first new one in the city in nearly three decades.

New Planning Commission Chair Named

The date for the float-up presentation was announced at the Planning Commission meeting on Wednesday. Also at the meeting, the commission voted for Richard McKinnon to serve as its new chair. He has been on the panel since September 2011.

“Anybody who serves on the Planning Commission knows that it’s an honor to be up here on a daily basis, and to be selected to be chair is a great privilege,” said McKinnon, who thanked outgoing chair Jason Parry for his service.

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