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L.A. Now Live: Discuss Santa Monica's potential growth spurt

November 06, 2013
  • Eleanor Blumenberg lives across the street from the Fairmont Miramar Hotel, where a major expansion is planned. She and other nearby residents oppose the project, especially because of the height of its proposed towers.
Eleanor Blumenberg lives across the street from the Fairmont Miramar Hotel,… (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles…)

Join us at 9 a.m. when we talk with Times reporter Matt Stevens about Santa Monica’s development future.

The city’s skyline is poised to be dramatically altered.

One project would bring a 21-story hotel to Ocean Avenue, creating the tallest building in the city. Another hotel designed by famed hometown architect Frank Gehry would add a wavy white tower just steps from the sand. A third hotel complex calls for three towers totaling 170,000 square feet on the southern edge of downtown.

In all, more than 30 projects in the pipeline could add nearly 3 million square feet in new residential, office and retail space. More than 700,000 square feet is proposed in a single project at the city's Bergamot Station Arts Center.

It's a lot of development for any city but particularly for Santa Monica, which has been famously slow-growth.

The unprecedented number of projects has surfaced since a major revamp of the city's land-use plan three years ago. The new plan identifies several sites for more intense development, including some near the coming Expo Line rail extension. The city is also in the midst of updating zoning in several areas to reflect changes in the land-use plan.

City planners say the Expo Line offers Santa Monica an opportunity to build more housing and businesses along the route and reduce reliance on cars. It's an appealing argument on the Westside, where traffic gridlock is a way of life. The Expo Line, which will run from downtown Los Angeles to downtown Santa Monica, is expected to open in early 2016.

Two of the proposed hotels and many of the other pending projects are within walking distance of the rail line, an added selling point for backers.

Still, many residents and some elected officials are skeptical that more development will bring less traffic.

Perhaps the most contentious proposal is an expansion of the Fairmont Miramar Hotel at Ocean Avenue and Wilshire Boulevard.

The revitalization of the hotel on the northern edge of downtown would add almost 300,000 square feet of space, including as many as 120 condos.

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