After talking with Santa Monica homeowners about traffic congestion, the developer of the massive Water Garden office project this week offered to the city Planning Commission measures that he said would prevent gridlock.
Los Angeles-based developer Jerry Snyder's $250-million project consists of a 1.4-million-square-foot development on 17 acres bordered by Colorado Avenue, 26th Street, Olympic and Cloverfield boulevards. It would consist of four office and commercial buildings around a 600-foot lake.
Despite Snyder's efforts, including door-to-door canvassing in the neighborhood near the project site to gain support for the development and meetings between area residents and his traffic consultant, Santa Monicans for Renters' Rights, one of the city's leading political factions, again demanded that traffic generated by the project be cut by 50%.
Proposals on Congestion
Snyder said previously proposed traffic-cutting measures, such as ride-sharing, combined with the new proposals, which will be reviewed by city planners, will considerably reduce traffic caused by his project and others nearby.
Snyder's new proposals include widening Cloverfield Boulevard from Colorado Avenue to the south side of the Santa Monica Freeway, and adding lanes to Cloverfield between the freeway and Pico Boulevard.
He also suggested widening the Cloverfield Boulevard off-ramps from the freeway, constructing a frontage road between Cloverfield Boulevard and 20th Street on the north side of the freeway, constructing an eastbound on-ramp to the freeway at 20th Street and modifying 26th Street to allow two-way traffic.
Other measures included giving residential parking permits for residents who live near the development, installing computerized traffic signals at 10 to 20 intersections and using traffic control officers at key intersections.
The commission approved an environmental impact report prepared for the project, but ordered the planning staff to review the new traffic mitigation measures, delaying a vote on the development agreement to its Dec. 14 meeting.
'Sense of Place'
"We are trying to accomplish what we call a sense of place," Snyder told the commission. "We think we have accomplished that in our Wilshire Courtyard development. The kind of tenants we have attracted at the Wilshire Courtyard are exactly the kind of tenants we want to attract to Water Garden. They are the large insurance companies, the advertising agencies."
The project would include three levels of underground parking for 4,521 cars. Snyder said he wants to keep the number of available spaces to a minimum to promote ride-sharing, van pools and use of public transportation. He said parking spaces for tenants will be limited.
"They (tenants) will not have the choice of having all those cars," he said. "They will not be able to park in front of neighbors' houses, they will not be able to park underneath the buildings. They will have to change their driving habits or we're in trouble in Southern California."
In addition, Synder's development agreement offers $300,000 for a homeless shelter and $150,000 for public art projects.
During Monday's hearing, about 20 speakers expressed mixed feelings about the proposal.
"Our feeling . . . is that a project like this would have to develop a clear and consistent plan for protecting the residential streets around it," said Paul Rosenstein, vice president of Santa Monica Mid-City Neighbors.
Judy Abdo, co-chairwoman of Santa Monicans for Renters' Rights, said the group wants the developer to reduce traffic by cutting in half the building density of the project or through a combination of less building and more traffic mitigation measures.
Lynn Cohen, who lives near the Wilshire Courtyard development, said the relationship between neighbors and the developer was "extremely hostile" at one point and is now "harmonious."
"We are very happy with this long-term relationship," she said.
Virginia Street resident Donna Alvarez said Santa Monica has "stagnated until it stinks."
"We need to utilize more development," she said. "I think the planned project is a beautiful one."