The massive Water Garden office project was unanimously approved by the Santa Monica Planning Commission on Monday, less than a week after Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley proposed a moratorium on development to reduce ocean pollution.
The commission voted 6 to 0 in favor of the development agreement for the 1.4-million-square-foot project after five hours of discussion with city officials and the developer, Jerry Snyder.
The project is scheduled to go to the City Council on Jan. 26.
Commission Chairwomen Eileen Hecht expressed concern over Bradley's call for a freeze on new development in Santa Monica, saying the proposal was "very stringent . . . very, very extreme."
Last week, Bradley called for a moratorium on development for the cities of Santa Monica, Burbank and San Fernando, which are exporting more sewage through the Los Angeles sewer system than allowed under their contracts.
Snyder said a sewage treatment plant is part of his project.
"I wish we could take care of our traffic the way we could take care of our sewage," Snyder quipped.
Traffic expected to be generated by the Water Garden and the adjacent Colorado Place complex has been a major concern of residents near the development site, prompting Snyder's traffic consultant to recommend, among other things, the widening of Cloverfield Boulevard between Colorado Avenue and Pico Boulevard, construction of a frontage road between Cloverfield Boulevard and 20th Street and construction of an eastbound on-ramp to the freeway at 20th Street.
Ron Fuchiwaki, city traffic and parking engineer, told the commission that construction of the frontage road and the freeway on-ramp would be "very time-consuming . . . and very expensive."
He said $11.5 million in traffic improvement fees paid by developers--including $6.6 million from Snyder--will "fall far short" of covering the costs of the traffic-cutting measures.
The commission agreed to a preferential parking zone near the development, although the exact boundaries of the zone have yet to be determined.
The $250-million development would be built on 17 acres bounded by Colorado Avenue, 26th Street and Olympic and Cloverfield boulevards.
Under the agreement, the Water Garden project would consist of 50,000 square feet of restaurants, 75,000 square feet of medical offices, 60,000 square feet of retail space, a 25,000-square-foot health club, 30,000 square feet for banks and a 7,000-square-foot child care facility.
The development agreement also would require J. H. Snyder Co. to spend $7.2 million for housing and parks.
The developer also agreed to provide temporary parking at the site to help Santa Monica College solve its parking shortage.
In addition, Snyder offered $300,000 for programs for the homeless and $150,000 for public art.
According to city planners, the project is expected to create about 5,200 jobs and generate more than $1.2 million a year in tax revenues.