A New Frank Gehry Development for Santa Monica Gets Approved

It’ll have everything, including a fine hotel with public rooftop deck, but not a lot of parking, as the city thinks that’s from a bygone era

Slightly sleepy Santa Monica is about to get seriously spiffed-up. In a few years, anyway.

In 6-0 vote Thursday, the Santa Monica City Council approved a new Frank Gehry project for Ocean Avenue that’s set to include an entire city block overhaul, according to the Santa Monica Daily Press. Plans include a 12-story hotel, commercial space, residential units, rent controlled and affordable housing units, a museum—plus a rooftop deck open to the public. Visitors will be able to visit the deck overlooking Santa Monica Bay with a one dollar donation. The proceeds will go to local schools, and children over ten accompanied by adults will be also be allowed to come up and enjoy the view.

The development will demand 285 underground parking spaces, which the council decided will be the max amount.

“The world is changing,” noted Santa Monica Councilwoman Gleam Davis. “People are using scooters, e-bikes. Parking spaces will become a waste of energy. It’s a waste of resources. It’s bad for the environment.”

The development’s museum will include rotating exhibits on art, local Santa Monica culture and architecture, with one free day per month for local residents. It will also offer field trips to schools in the beach community.

“I’m just really glad I get to be here for what I think is a truly historic moment for the city, to get to potentially move this project forward,” Mayor Pro Tem Kristin McCowan said. “I want to thank Mr. Gehry for what just appears to be a love letter, I think, to Santa Monica, and really sort of encapsulates so much of your artistry over your career. And as a local, this is such a beautiful way to give back.”

Eighteen members of the public attended Thursday’s special council meeting to discuss the plan. Supporters included union members, a city architect and parents of school children, who were grateful to Gehry’s team for including benefits for local public education.

The Gehry Ocean Avenue project will also have 11 replacement units specifically for current tenants; the development agreement states all current rent controlled tenants displaced by the construction will be guaranteed a unit at similar rent when the project is completed. In total, the project will replace 19 current units with 100 units consisting of 64 market-rate apartments, 11 rent controlled replacement apartments and 25 deed-restricted affordable apartments, according to SMDP.

Councilman Phil Brock said, “I hope this is a catalyst for smart development throughout our city from now on. The fact that the affordable housing is mixed in—it’s not separate, it’s not being stigmatized. The fact that has been done in thoughtful consideration of all the residents in the city? That is extraordinary.”

While the major project finally passed With Santa Monica City Council, it now must take plans before the California Coastal Commission and the City’s Architectural Review Board and Landmarks Commission. So if you’re considering a possible move to Santa Monica, don’t count on this being an option anytime soon. Still, it’s a great step for the city to develop real estate while taking public benefits into account.

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