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Judge Temporarily Halts Parking Structure Demolition

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By Jorge Casuso

December 22, 2021 -- A Superior Court judge last week granted a group of Downtown property owners a temporary restraining order that stops the city from beginning to demolish Parking Structure 3.

The order will be in place until January 7, when the trial judge takes up a request from the Santa Monica Bayside Owners Association (SMBOA) for a preliminary injunction until a final ruling is issued.

The judge's order "stops the City from dismantling (the structure) in any way," said Allan Cooper, an attorney for the plaintiffs.

In ordering the injunction, the judge also ordered the petitioner to post a $125,000 bond to cover damages "in the event the City ultimately prevails on the Petition," City officials said.

Demolition of the structure was potentially set to begin on January 3 under a $2.5 million demolition contract the City Council awarded to AMPCO Contracting, Inc. this summer.

The contract was authorized shortly after the California Coastal Commission approved a demolition permit in May that paved the way for the City to replace the structure with an affordable housing project.

The SMBOA's lawsuit seeks to stop the City's plans, claiming that the Coastal Commission "erred in granting the permit because the legal requirement wasn't met," Cooper said.

The association contends that the area cannot afford to lose the 337 spaces in the lot, which City officials note were replaced when Parking Structure 6 was rebuilt.

If the preliminary injunction is granted in January, the City "will be unable to proceed with demolition until a final judgment seeking a permanent injunction is denied," City officials said.

This is not likely to be considered by the trial judge until mid-2022, according to officials.

Last Friday's court order comes two months after supporters of saving the structure submitted a petition to top City officials opposing the removal of "much needed parking" ("Supporters Mount Latest Push to Save Downtown Parking Structure," October 21, 2021).

The fate of parking Structure 3 has been debated over the past two decades.

In 2009, the City decided to tear down the structure -- which was built in 1966 and needs extensive retrofitting -- and replace it with a commercial use, starting negotiations with two cinema operators that failed to pan out.

Two years later, the City approved the Downtown Community Plan (DCP), which allows approximately 120,000 square feet of affordable housing and approves the reduction of 600 public parking spaces on 2nd and 4th streets by 2027.

In October, the Council approved a Housing Element Update that earmarks Parking Structure 3 as one of the potential City-owned properties needed to build the 6,168 affordable units mandated by the State ("Council Cautiously Approves Housing Plan," October 13, 2021).

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