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Concepts Proposed for Future Site Near Santa Monica Rail Station

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 10 -- It’s too early in the planning stage to tell what the future will bring for an approximately 80,000-square-foot, City-owned property on Fourth Street and Colorado, but some interesting ideas are on the table.

The Planning Commission listened to a presentation about the property on Wednesday from City staff and members shared their own ideas. The public also had a chance to weigh in the future of the property located between the freeway and the soon-to-open Expo Light Rail Station.

Because of its location, the property is “one of the main entries into the City of Santa Monica, perceived by many as the gateway to the distinctive places that make Santa Monica unique,” staff wrote in its report to the Commission.

The interim development of the site is already underway, and the first phase of the project is expected to be completed early next year. Approved by the City Council in February, the project mostly involves the construction of parking and drop-off areas.

There are various plans for the long-term project, including its partial use a bus station site, possibly underground or on the surface. Most of the commissioners were not keen on this idea.

“It is important there be a place where train riders can move to riding the bus,” Commissioner Amy Anderson said. “That said, this is too small and too constrained by circulation challenges and barriers to really be any kind of bus facility.”

Commissioner Jason Parry favored developing the property to focus on office space or a hotel. Others said it would be a good area for housing.

Commissioner Nina Fresco said she does not usually like the idea of housing near a freeway but felt there were benefits to putting it on this property.

“One thing that housing does, and we could probably get it from a hotel too, is that kind of round the clock activity,” Fresco said.

“I really like to see that because what’s going to make the station safe is built-in population of all kinds of people and not just the people who lurk in the shadows,” she said. “They’ll stay in the shadows when there’s other people there.”

Commissioner Mario Fonda-Bonardi did not support housing on the property. “When you add up all the noise of these clanging light rails and the freeway and the parking, I don’t know if I’d want to live there,” he said.

One idea several commissioners favored was construction of what was called the Olympic Crossover. This involves relocating the Fourth Street off-ramp further south to align with Olympic Drive.

The staff report says this action would “disperse traffic more evenly throughout the Civic Center/Downtown network” and “would create additional direct connections to Main Street and Ocean Avenue via Olympic Drive.”

“Initial analysis shows that this improves the level of service at Fourth and Colorado, which is currently one of the busiest intersections in the city,” staff wrote. “The Olympic Crossover would also enable a signalized intersection at 4th Street and the new street/paseo.”

Capping portions of the freeway was also discussed. Among the supporters of doing this is former Mayor Mike Feinstein, who spoke favorably of it during the public portion of the meeting.

Feinstein first proposed the capping concept in 1997 when he was on City Council.

There is also the possibility of working on a plan for the property with the owner of an adjacent private property featuring a building. Its owner, Scott Schonfeld, spoke at the meeting. He has hired a consultant to investigate various scenarios.

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