Santa Monica City Councilman Herbert Katz has made a last-minute proposal under which 1 million square feet of development would be allowed at Colorado Place if the developer pays the city $5 million for traffic improvements citywide.
The $5 million would be in addition to about $4.8 million for other improvements which Southmark Pacific Corp. agreed to pay under an earlier agreement with the city, Katz said.
The controversial Phase 3 of Colorado Place, including a nine-story hotel, offices and a health club, was trimmed down from its proposed 1 million square feet to 781,000 square feet by the city's Planning Commission.
The project, scheduled for a City Council vote on Tuesday, is opposed by Santa Monicans for Renters' Rights, but the symbolic leader of the tenants group, Mayor James P. Conn, indicated last week that he would vote for the project.
Asked about Katz's proposal, Conn said Thursday that it would be "terrific" if it brings the developer and opposing neighborhood groups into agreement on Colorado Place.
He said it is especially important for the City Council to make the decisions about the project rather than risk protracted litigation.
"A negotiated agreement is to the advantage of all residents rather than putting it in the hands of a judge," he said.
Judy Abdo, co-chair of the 5,000-member organization, said of Katz's proposal: "I am glad to see that the SMRR position is causing city officials to think more creatively in response to real problems in our community."
Co-chair Ken Genser said Katz engaged in "guesswork" in naming $5 million as the amount the city should charge Southmark for citywide traffic planning and improvements. He said the city is plagued with more and more cars as more projects are built, and added, "The best cure would be prevention."
Better Than Negativism
Katz said his plan would be "far better than saying, 'No' to development." If developments are stopped in Santa Monica, he said, they will be built in neighboring West Los Angeles, where Santa Monica city planners will have no power to provide for traffic management.
Under Katz's plan, Southmark Pacific would pay $3 million at the time a development agreement is signed, $1 million when the first building permit is issued and $1 million when the second permit is granted.
This plan would provide immediate funds for traffic improvements in Santa Monica, he said.
Tom Larmore, attorney for the Colorado Place project, said Southmark Pacific is considering Katz's plan. Company officials believe it has "interesting possibilities," he said.
City Manager John Jalili said Katz's proposal will be submitted to the City Council on Tuesday.
In a related matter, the Santa Monica city attorney's office is looking into a claim that Mayor Conn, a Methodist minister, should be forced to abstain from voting on Colorado Place because his church in Ocean Park received a financial contribution from Southmark Pacific.
Conn denied that a conflict of interest exists. City Atty. Robert M. Myers said he will give an opinion on the matter before Tuesday's council meeting.
The complaint against Conn was made by Duke Kelso, a community activist who opposed approval of the Colorado Place development.
Phase 3 of Colorado Place is to be built on a site bounded by Colorado Avenue, 20th Street and Olympic and Cloverfield boulevards.
In an earlier agreement with the city, Southmark Pacific agreed to pay $3.3 million for housing and parks in Santa Monica, $1 million for road improvements near the project, $250,000 for neighborhood child care and $250,000 for artwork.