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Santa Monica Group Seeks to Reduce Project

November 26, 1987|TRACY WILKINSON | Times Staff Writer

One of Santa Monica's principal political factions is calling for a 50% reduction in the amount of traffic that a proposed commercial-office complex would be allowed to generate.

The project's developer, however, says his plans already include features that will curtail traffic and come close to meeting those demands.

Plans for the massive Water Garden complex, a 1.4-million-square-foot project surrounding a man-made lake, are scheduled to go before Santa Monica's Planning Commission on Monday.

The $250-million development proposal is the work of Los Angeles-based developer Jerry Snyder, president of J. H. Snyder Co., who said he will offer the city Planning Commission a nine-point "menu" of ideas for cutting back traffic, including street widening, off-site parking and ride-sharing.

Response to Demand

Snyder's comments came in response to a statement issued Tuesday by Santa Monicans for Renters' Rights, one of the city's main political groups, calling for reducing by half the traffic that the Water Garden project would be allowed to generate.

Traffic from the Water Garden combined with traffic from other nearby projects would cause a "significant deterioration in the quality of life in our community," the group said.

Snyder said he talked with members of Santa Monicans for Renters' Rights and is confident its demands and his plans for reduction in traffic "are not very far apart."

"I'm delighted with the SMRR approach because I think we are not far away from what they are asking," Snyder said in an interview. "Their approach is pretty good. They are saying, 'We'll talk and work it out, rather than just (coming out) against it.' "

Snyder has taken an unusual tack for a developer. Last month, he launched an intensive canvassing campaign to gain support for the project from residents near the proposed site as well as community leaders. At one point, he walked door-to-door to shake residents' hands and explain his ideas.

Meetings With Homeowners

He also has had his traffic engineers meet with homeowner groups.

The Santa Monicans for Renters' Rights statement was released in a news conference at Santa Monica City Hall by the group's co-chairwoman, Judy Abdo. She was joined by the group's members on the City Council, Mayor James Conn, Dennis Zane and David Finkel.

"The benefits of this development at the scale and intensity proposed are simply insufficient to overcome the burdens it creates," Abdo said in a prepared statement.

"Widening of streets and adding more freeway exits or on-ramps may improve the flow of some streets or spread the burden around, but they do not address the fundamental difficulty--too many automobiles creating too many problems."

The reduction in traffic could be achieved either by cutting building density by half or through a combination of less building and more of the so-called "traffic management" features, such as street-widening, Santa Monicans for Renters' Rights said.

17-Acre Site

The Water Garden project is proposed for a 17-acre site bordered by Colorado Avenue, 26th Street, Olympic and Cloverfield boulevards. It would include four buildings for office and commercial use, placed around a 600-foot lake.

Conn said Santa Monicans for Renters' Rights was not objecting to the project itself but to a potential traffic crush.

"This is not a question of the size or quality of the project," Conn said. "Everyone felt this is the kind of quality project we want built in Santa Monica. The question is what is the impact on the quality of life" for residents in the area.

"We can only handle so much traffic in this city. Period," Conn said.

Conn said the Santa Monicans for Renters' Rights position on the Water Garden project was a "continuation" of the group's role in championing the slow-growth movement.

The last major commercial development project similar to Water Garden, the Colorado Place complex, was approved by the City Council despite protest from slow-growth proponents. Conn split with Santa Monicans for Renters' Rights to vote in favor of the project, in what was seen as a stinging defeat for the slow-growth movement.

Abdo said Santa Monicans for Renters' Rights this time wanted its position on Water Garden to be clear in the public's mind early in the planning process.

"There were misconceptions out there about where we stood (on the Colorado Place project)," Abdo said. "This time we want everyone in the community to know where we stand and let the developer know what we want."

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