Contentious Ocean Front Mixed-Use Developments Approved by Santa Monica City Council

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Two mixed-use developments in the prime Ocean Park community of Santa Monica that have faced local opposition were cleared to proceed following a City Council vote on Tuesday.

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The council voted 5 to 1 in favor to deny appeals filed by South Ocean Avenue Residents (SOAR) and UNITE HERE Local 11 against the multistory, mixed-use buildings at 1828 Ocean Avenue and 1921 Ocean Front Walk. The developments proposed are adjacent to luxury hotels Casa Del Mar and Shutters by the Beach and being developed by the hoteliers behind the two properties.

The opposition argued that, despite promising otherwise, the developers will use the buildings as an extension of their two adjacent hotels or as “corporate housing” and argued for an addition of a clause mandating that tenants sign one-year leases at minimum.

In addition, critics brought up concerns about additional traffic. Sally Reinman, a member of SOAR and resident of Vicente Terrace, also argued that the five-story Ocean Avenue project would dwarf the smaller scale neighboring properties and create a “canyon effect” arguing for the projects to be scaled back to not exceed 36 feet in height and sit 20 feet from the curb.

The first and larger of the two projects at 1828 Ocean Avenue would replace a current surface parking lot with a five-story 81,000-square-foot development featuring 83 units above 2,000 square feet of ground-floor commercial space and a multi-level, 273-car underground parking garage. Plans call for a mix of studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom units, with 12 set aside as affordable housing at the very-low-income level.

The second development at 1921 Ocean Front Walk will consist of a four-story building featuring 22 residential units above 4,000 square feet of ground-floor commercial space and 56 parking stalls in a basement garage. Like its sister project, plans call for a mix of apartments with four units of affordable housing at very-low-income level required, which are to be built off-site at the Ocean Avenue building.

City Council voted not to deny the projects, with Councilmember Tim Winterer telling the complainants that while he understood their concerns, “his hands are pretty much tied” because of the California Housing Accountability Act. (The measure, passed in 1982, limits the ability of local governments to restrict new development and was strengthened in 2017 because of the statewide housing crisis.)

The council, however, added an additional safeguard by adopting Winterer’s motion which would require the developers to state the criminal and civil penalties for violating the city’s corporate and short-term housing ordinances in both the projects description and building’s leases. It also mandates them to submit an annual report to the city of Santa Monica on the nature and terms of the leases and the projects’ compliance with Proposition S, a 1990 ballot measure that prohibits building new hotels and large restaurants near the beach.