Settlement of a lawsuit over the size of a proposed hotel and park in Santa Monica's $225-million Colorado Place development came as the result of a "rosy" relationship that evolved during negotiations, according to officials from the city, the Southmark Pacific Corp. and Santa Monica Mid-City Neighbors.
"We are preserving the park, which is what they want, and we can get the development under way, which is what we want," said Robbie Monsma, a vice president for Southmark, owner of the development.
Under the agreement approved by the City Council last week, Southmark's proposed hotel will be limited to a height of 96 feet, about nine stories. Southmark had pressed for a 13- to 15-story hotel.
The site of the hotel will be moved to a recently purchased 11-acre site, which Southmark has dubbed Phase 3, bounded by Colorado Avenue and Cloverfield and Olympic boulevards.
Mid-City Neighbors, an organization of residents who live near the original 15-acre development site bounded by Colorado Avenue, Cloverfield Boulevard, Broadway and 26th Street, were able to preserve the proposed 3.4-acre park called for in the original 1981 development agreement.
In return, Southmark will be permitted to build a five-story office building on the site originally proposed for the hotel.
Saying that the relationship between the city, neighbors and developers "started out rocky but has become rather rosy," Councilman Dennis Zane claimed that the new agreement actually improves the development from the standpoint of nearby residents.
"The 96-foot building is something we had originally agreed to in order to achieve the park space," he said. "Now we get the park without the higher building by allowing them to move it out to the Phase 3 parcel."
The negotiations "went from rancorous discussion to something where we said, 'OK, let's make something work,' " Zane said.
The 1981 development plan worked out with the project's original owner called for two phases of construction on the 15-acre parcel.
Restaurants in First Phase
The first phase, completed in late 1983, includes three office buildings and a plaza with restaurants on the south half of the project facing Colorado.
The second phase, facing Broadway, called for two office buildings, two nine-story hotel towers and a 3.4-acre park at Broadway and 26th Street.
The developers also were committed to build a day-care center and 100 units of affordable housing. The day-care center was included in Phase 1 and 41 of the 100 units of housing were built. Monsma said Southmark never contested the housing provision of the agreement and plans build the other 59 units.
Southmark, which purchased the development in January, 1985, claimed that the 400-room hotel called for in the plan was too large to be economically feasible and instead asked for a revision which would allow construction of three office towers, a 13- to 15-story hotel and 1.5 acres of park. An additional 3.3 acres of park were to be located at a site nearby.
In January of this year Southmark filed suit against the city claiming that a complicated "averaging formula" in the original agreement allowed them to build the larger hotel tower.
As part of the agreement, Southmark will not dismiss its lawsuit until it has received final approval for the third phase of Colorado Place. An environmental impact report on Phase 3 will examine parking and traffic congestion.
Neighbors Had a Say
The agreement "meets the concerns the neighbors had with the plan," which centered on the size of the hotel and the location of the park, said Paul Rosenstein, chairman of Mid-City Neighbors. "I think it is important that neighbors have real input into the decision making and that is exactly what happened in this case."
Rosenstein, who also is head of his organization's negotiating committee, said he will take the agreement to the neighborhood through a series of community meetings in which "we anticipate approval" of the agreement.
Monsma said Southmark plans to begin work on two office buildings in Phase 2 by June 16. Construction of the hotel and one office building on the east side of the Phase 3 parcel could begin by June, 1987.
Phase 3 eventually will include 600,000 square feet of office space in addition to the hotel and a one-acre park, Monsma said.
"Phase 3 is a very large site that will be developed over 5 to 10 years," she said.