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First Two Revised SRO Developments Get Hearing
By Jorge Casuso
December 5, 2019 -- The first two market-rate SRO projects resubmitted under a settlement agreement between the developer and City got their first public hearing Monday.
The Santa Monica Architectural Review Board (ARB) took up the two Downtown projects resubmitted by WS Communities after they were enlarged to accommodate more affordable and larger units.
The two projects at 1415 and and 1437 5th Street are among six proposed SRO developments totaling 361 "micro-units" the City Council blocked with an emergency interim ordinance in March of last year.
The developments -- which were allowed under a loophole in the 2017 Downtown Community Plan -- required only 5 percent affordable units, compared to the 30 percent required under the plan.
The two developments reviewed by the ARB have a mix of SRO units that range from 220 to 375 square feet, 20 percent of which are affordable, and traditional one- to three-bedroom units, 15 percent of which are affordable.
"I really think it was a compromise," said Dave Rand, the attorney for WS Communities who negotiated the settlement agreement. "It was a messy process with what I hope will be an elegant outcome."
Under the settlement agreement, the City got significantly more affordable housing, while the developer was able to build eight-story buildings with administrative approval, Rand said.
The building at 1415 5th Street includes 93 SRO units, 14 of them affordable, and 41 one- to three-bedroom units, of which 8 are affordable.
The proposed project also includes 2,457 square feet of ground floor commercial space and 110 parking spaces that are not required under the Downtown Plan.
The project proposed for 1437 5th Street includes 45 SRO units, seven of them affordable, and 18 one- to three-bedroom units, four of which are affordable.
The project also includes 1,497 square feet of ground-floor commercial space. No parking is being provided for the site.
The ARB on Monday conducted a preliminary review of the design, colors, and materials for the construction of the two projects.
The board asked the developer to "dramatically strengthen the design," said Constance Farrell, the spokesperson for the City.
The board members' comments included requesting changes to the facades and courtyard space, Farrell said.
Rand predicted the settlement agreement will "produce some pretty great projects" that will provide a "diversity of housing in the Downtown."
While the City Council rushed to close the loophole on market rate SROs, the Planning Department argued they provide a valuable niche in Santa Monica's housing market ("Planning Commission Rejects Council's Request to Propose Ban on 'Micro Units,' May 2, 2019).
"This eliminates a whole population from affordable housing opportunities in Santa Monica, even if they're market rate," said Commissioner Leslie Lambert, who led the opposition to the council's ban.
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