Santa Monicans for Renters' Rights, the city's largest citizens group, has come out in opposition to Phase 3 of Colorado Place, the massive office-retail complex planned by Southmark Pacific Corp.
However, the group's symbolic leader, Mayor James P. Conn, says that he intends to support the proposal.
Spokesmen for the 5,000-member tenant organization, ignoring Conn's stand on the issue, called for rejection of the development proposal at a City Hall press conference Wednesday morning, saying that the 1-million-square-foot project would cause serious traffic, congestion and pollution problems.
"The massive scale of the project as well as the precedent it would set for approval of other proposed developments in the vicinity will overburden the city's infrastructure and seriously degrade the quality of life," said Dolores Press. "One million additional square feet is just too much."
No Assurance of Support
Judy Abdo, the group's co-chairwoman, said Santa Monicans for Renters' Rights is counting on the council to reject the proposal. But she acknowledged that they do not even have assurances of support from their own council representatives--Conn and Councilmen Dennis Zane and David Finkel--who hold three of the council's seven seats.
"This is our statement," Abdo said. "We do not control the council members and have no commitments. But we do hope to influence their votes."
Finkel and Zane were not available for comment.
Conn said that he understands the group's concerns about traffic, congestion and pollution. But the mayor added that other factors--such as the city staff's recommendation for approval and a pending lawsuit--have convinced him that the developer should be allowed to proceed.
Conn said he assumes that other members of Santa Monicans for Renters' Rights understand his position. "These people are pretty sophisticated and intelligent," Conn said. "They understand there are . . . legal realities."
Groups in Opposition
By coming out in opposition to the the project, which faces a council vote on Tuesday, Santa Monicans for Renters' Rights joins other community groups such as the Sunset Park Associated Neighbors and the Pico Neighborhood Assn.
Rita Prelvitz, a spokeswoman for Southmark Pacific, said any opposition to the project is a "major blow," but added that the company remains optimistic.
Prelvitz said that the benefits to the city from additional jobs and housing outweigh possible problems that the project might cause.
Under an agreement with the city, Southmark Pacific would be required to pay $3.3 million for housing and parks in Santa Monica, $1 million for road improvements in the vicinity of the project, $250,000 for neighborhood child care and $250,000 for artwork.
The third phase of Colorado Place is targeted for an area bounded by Colorado Avenue, 20th Street and Olympic and Cloverfield boulevards. It was intended to include a nine-story hotel, 675,000 square feet of office space, a health club and shops. Last month, however, the city Planning Commission voted to reduce the project's size by 30%, scaling it down to 731,000-square-feet.
Prelvitz said that the Planning Commission's decision amounted to a no-growth policy. Southmark Pacific is asking the City Council to overrule the commission and approve construction of the entire 1 million square feet.
At its press conference, Santa Monicans for Renters' Rights said approval of the 1 million square feet of construction would set a dangerous precedent since there are several other projects slated for the area.