A controversial plan for a four-story auto dealership on Santa Monica Boulevard was approved by the Planning Commission on Monday, but the 5-2 decision was immediately appealed by Commissioner Derek Shearer.
The appeal of the Kramer Motors plan will be submitted to the City Council, probably in December, according to Suzanne Frick, acting chief planner for the city.
Mayor Christine E. Reed, who attended the commission meeting, said in an interview on Tuesday that the Kramer plan may win council approval because it incorporates changes that were suggested by the council during an appeal hearing last month.
"They have basically redesigned the project to do those things we asked (such as keeping all the service traffic within the building)," Reed said. "It would be difficult for the City Council to deny approval when it seems, at least to me, they have met most of the concerns the council outlined."
In his appeal, drafted within hours of the Planning Commission decision on Monday, Shearer said that the project exceeds the allowable size, is incompatible with the neighborhood and should be subject to a full environmental review.
In a three-hour hearing before the commission, members of Santa Monicans for Reasonable Growth and other residents argued that the proposed 54-foot-tall building would "totally dwarf" adjacent residential development and cause added traffic and environmental problems.
Jack Rubens, a spokesman for the residents' group, said in an interview on Tuesday that members applaud Shearer's decision to appeal.
"We would have appealed ourselves if Shearer had not," he said.
Rubens said that residents agree with Shearer's contention that the Kramer project would exceed the size of development allowed on the site.
The five-member majority on the commission, however, acted on staff advice that the proposed project is within guidelines set forth in the city's land-use plan.
Debate on Monday centered on whether the rooftop parking area and the basement of the building should be counted in calculating the floor-area ratio for the project.
The floor-area ratio compares the square footage of the building to that of the project site and is used to regulate the size of development.
For the 22,500-square-foot Kramer site, the city's floor-area ratio of 3 to 1 would allow a building of up to 67,500 square feet.
According to a report prepared by Planning Consultants Research and submitted to the Planning Commission, the 65,348-square-foot Kramer project has a 2.9-to-1 floor-area ratio, just under the allowable limit.
But Shearer contends that Kramer has exceeded the allowable limit because the rooftop will be used to store cars, but is not counted in calculating the ratio.
"The project exceeds the allowable FAR (floor-area ratio) by allowing storage of cars on the roof in what is, in fact, a fifth floor for the project, but is not counted in calculating the FAR," Shearer said in his letter of appeal.
At Monday's meeting, former Planning Director Paul Silvern (who resigned in August but was retained as a paid adviser to the commission) said that the city does not include rooftop uses in calculating floor-area ratios.
The commission also discussed whether to count a basement floor that Kramer added to the redesigned project he submitted two weeks ago in an attempt to gain neighborhood and city approval.
Silvern said the city should count the basement--to be used for servicing cars--but should not count the rooftop or ramps between floors. This formula would produce a floor-area ratio of 2.98 to 1, which is within the allowable maximum, he said.
In his appeal, Shearer objected to the project because "the massing and intensity of the building are incompatible with the site and with the surrounding neighborhood." Under the city's site review process the Planning Commission could have rejected the project for that reason, he said.
Shearer said that a full environmental review should have been required because of the collective effect of the auto dealership and several other projects planned within a few blocks of the Kramer site at 18th Street and Santa Monica Boulevard.
The commission, in voting 5 to 2 to approve the Kramer project, imposed a number of conditions designed to regulate traffic and noise. Voting with Shearer against the project was Commissioner Edward Kirshner.
Shearer and Kirshner also were overruled by a 5-2 vote on their demand for an environmental impact report. The commission majority agreed with the staff's finding that an environmental study was not necessary because the project "will not cause significant (environmental) impacts."
Rubens said, however, that residents believe that the new project includes significant changes that should be subject to full environmental study and public comment.