Kramer Motors Inc., one of the largest automobile dealers in Santa Monica, is receiving complaints from residents over its proposal to build a four-story dealership on Santa Monica Boulevard and 18th Street.
The 60,804-square-foot facility is the first major auto dealership to be proposed under the city's recently approved land-use plan, which encourages dealers to expand their facilities. It would be located at 1801 Santa Monica Blvd., the site an auto repair shop. There are already several auto dealerships along the same stretch of Santa Monica Boulevard.
Robert Kramer, who owns several dealerships in Santa Monica, plans to move his Honda agency from 17th Street and Santa Monica Boulevard to the new site.
The proposed dealership would have 20 service stalls, an indoor showroom and an outdoor display area. It would include a covered service aisle, a new car storage area on the ground floor and three floors of parking garage.
Residents, concerned that the expansion of several auto dealerships would disrupt their neighborhoods, are asking the city to conduct an environmental review of the Kramer project.
But city planning officials are expected to tell the Planning Commission that an environmental impact report is not required because the project conforms to the land-use plan, which has already undergone an environmental review. The commission will review the staff's recommendation at its meeting on May 20.
The land-use plan, approved last fall, encourages the auto dealerships to expand. Although most development on Santa Monica Boulevard is restricted to three stories, auto dealers are permitted to build to a height of 54 feet or about four stories.
The city's 30 auto dealers provide about 25% of the city's sales tax revenue or about $3.2 million this fiscal year, according to Michael Dennis, Santa Monica finance director.
"We do not want to run these auto dealerships out of the city," Mayor Christine E. Reed said. "We need that sales tax revenue. Auto dealers are a plum for cities."
Jack Rubens and John Belsher live next to Kramer's proposed site. They said that trucks delivering automobiles and early-morning lines of cars waiting for service already create problems along Santa Monica.
"The cumulative impact on the traffic, noise and parking of several of these auto dealerships will be insurmountable," Rubens said. "There just won't be any residential area left. . . . We're not saying the project should be stopped. As it stands now, it is incompatible with the adjacent residential area and Mr. Kramer has not deigned to take the adjacent neighborhood into account."
Kramer would not comment. "There isn't any controversy that I know of, so I really have nothing to say to you," he said.
Residents complain that the Kramer project will set a precedent but Reed said that the precedent was set last fall by the City Council.
Kramer's proposal "just happens to be the first one under the new rules" that were adopted last year, she said. "The problem that exists is that residents don't relate to the abstract planning process at all, but they do relate to the individual project when they affect their neighborhood."
But Belsher said that the land-use plan also provides for the protection of the neighborhood.
"We feel this is one project among several that are going to happen along Santa Monica Boulevard," Belsher said. "We feel we are going to be denied our rights under CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) if they refuse to do an environmental impact report on a single project and permit one project at a time."
Kramer had originally proposed two buildings: the four-story dealership and a three-story office building with an adjacent parking lot at 1348 18th St. He withdrew plans for the second building last week.
Belsher and Rubens speculated that Kramer may have withdrawn the second project to avoid conducting an environmental impact report. "We suspect he will try to build a four-story and come back later with a three-story, and in that way (he) will try to avoid an EIR," Belsher said.
Carol Waldrop, division manager of the Planning and Zoning Department, said that if Kramer, or anyone else, proposes another building on 18th Street, it would be considered in the context of the entire area.
As president of the Automobile Dealers Assn., Kramer was involved in negotiating changes in the land-use plan on behalf of the auto dealers, according to Reed. "He wasn't just representing himself, but the dealers," Reed said.