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Appeals Court Won't Hear Parking Structure Case, Paving Way for Demolition

Bob Kronovetrealty
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By Jorge Casuso

March 3, 2022 -- A Court of Appeals on Wednesday declined to take up a case filed by a group of Downtown property owners seeking to halt the demolition of Parking Structure 3.

In a one-sentence ruling, the three-judge panel removed the stay it had issued on February 9, freeing the City to begin tearing down the structure it plans to replace with a housing development for the homeless.

"The petition for writ of supersedeas filed by appellant on February 8, 2022, as well as the oppositions filed on February 25, 2022, have been read and considered," the ruling read. "The petition is denied."

Shortly after the ruling against the Santa Monica Bayside Owners Association (SMBOA), the City issued a short statement.

"The City of Santa Monica is happy to learn that the Court of Appeal has lifted the stay on the demolition of Parking Structure 3," the statement reads.

"The Court also denied the request that the demolition not be allowed to go ahead. The City will share updates with the community on the demolition schedule of the parking structure when available."

Ellia Thompson, an attorney for the property owners group, said the short ruling is unusual and that the plaintiffs attorneys are considering the options.

"Normally, there's more language," Thompson said. "We're trying to figure out next steps."

The SMBOA's lawsuit filed in LA County Superior Court contends that the Downtown area cannot afford to lose the 337 spaces in the garage, which City officials note were replaced when Parking Structure 6 was rebuilt.

In its effort to halt the Ciy's plans, the property owners claimed that the Coastal Commission "erred in granting the permit because the legal requirement wasn't met."

The plaintiff's won a brief victory in mid December when Superior Court Judge Mitchell Beckloff granted a temporary restraining order stopping the structure's demolition ("Judge Temporarily Halts Parking Structure Demolition," December 22, 2021).

But on January 28, Beckloff dealt a major blow to the plaintiffs when he granted the City's motion to dismiss the case because the SMBOA had failed to meet a filing deadline ("Judge Issues Tentative Ruling Tossing Parking Structure Lawsuit," January 28, 20022).

On February 2, the City announced it would begin tearing down the structure on Fourth Street between Santa Monica Boulevard and Arizona Avenue on Valentine's Day ("Demolition of Parking Structure 3 to Start This Month," February 2, 2022).

Two days later, Beckloff issued a short stay of his order to dismiss the lawsuit, giving the plaintiff one week to seek a further stay from the Court of Appeal ("Parking Structure Case Gets Brief Reprieve," February 5, 2022).

On February 10, the day after the Appeals Court issued a stay halting the demolition while it decided whether to take up the case, the City secured the parking structure with fencing and closed it to the public.

The demolition of the structure -- which was built in 1966 and needs extensive retrofitting -- was given the go-ahead in 2009, when the Council voted to 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.

The City got the go-ahead to tear down the structure last May, when the California Coastal Commission approved a demolition permit. Two months later the Council awarded a $2.5 million demolition contract to AMPCO Contracting, Inc.

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).

Under the winning proposal recommended by EAH, the developer would build and manage the property and "all residents would be supported with services to ensure housing retention and good-neighbor actions," City officials said.

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