Santa Monica residents have expressed mixed reactions to a new plan to complete the $225-million Colorado Place project with a 13-story hotel, three office buildings and a park.
At a community meeting last weekend, some residents said they liked the new plan, which includes a two-acre park at Colorado Place and a three-acre park nearby that would accommodate a soccer field, a baseball diamond and basketball courts.
But others objected to placing the three-acre park in an industrial area a few blocks away from the project, which they said is too far away from residential neighborhoods.
They said that the two-acre park at Colorado Place would not be "user friendly" to neighbors because the project is geared primarily to serve hotel guests and occupants of professional offices there.
Opponents also criticized the plan because it would increase the height of the proposed hotel by four stories even though it would reduce the number of rooms. The old plan called for two nine-story towers with 396 rooms, while the new proposal is for a single 13-story building with 262 rooms.
The new plan has been developed by Southmark Pacific Corp., which acquired Colorado Place from the original owner, Becket Investment Corp., in January.
All development of the project is governed by a contract Becket signed with the city in 1981, so Southmark will have to get City Council approval for many of the changes it is proposing in Becket's original plan.
The development is on a 15-acre site bounded by Colorado Avenue, Cloverfield Boulevard, Broadway and 26th St.
Becket completed the first half of the project at the end of 1983 with three office buildings and a plaza featuring restaurants and cafes on the southern side of the site facing Colorado Avenue.
Under the development agreement with the city, Becket was required to provide a total of 100 units of low- and moderate-cost housing and a child care center in exchange for permission to build Colorado Place.
In compliance with the development agreement's requirements for the first phase, Becket built the child care center at Colorado Place and 41 units of affordable housing in the Pico corridor area of Santa Monica. Southmark has offered to pay the city $2.5 million in lieu of building the remaining 59 units, and has offered to deed to the city the land on which the 41 units were built.
Southmark studied Becket's plans for the second phase of Colorado Place and decided that the original hotel with nearly 400 rooms was too large, said attorney and spokeswoman Robbie Monsma.
Scaling back the hotel necessitated the addition of a six-story office building and changes in park plans, she said.
The revised plan calls for about 40,000 square feet less development than the 1,184,813 approved under the old plan, Monsma said.
The increase in the hotel's height does not require City Council approval, Monsma told about 75 people who attended the meeting hosted by Southmark at Colorado Place on Saturday morning.
The 13-story proposal is well within the height allowed under the development agreement, she said.
Monsma said that the development agreement expires Aug. 1, and that if Southmark were to proceed under provisions of the city's land use plan it could build even more offices and would not have to provide the three-acre park it is proposing.
Now that it has shown its plans to the public and members of the City Council and staff, Southmark plans to submit a formal application to the city "very shortly," officials said.
Monsma said that Southmark hopes to gain City Council approval as soon as possible, so that as early as January the existing buildings could be removed and construction could begin on the long-delayed second phase of the project.
Spokesmen for the Mid-City Neighbors and the Pico Neighborhood Assn., the groups representing the residential neighborhoods affected by Southmark's plans, said they will study the proposal and draft recommendations.
Some residents who attended the meeting said they liked Southmark's plan better than Becket's because of the three-acre park to be built on a six-acre site the company is buying on Colorado between Cloverfield and 20th St. This park would be donated to the city.
Eventually, Southmark plans to build three six-story office buildings adjacent to the park, but this will be subject to a separate application process with the city, Monsma said.
"This area is going to develop anyway. We can't hold it back," said one resident who supports the new plan. "My concern is that it be developed properly."
Other residents expressed concerns that the park at Colorado Place is too small and because of its location next to a hotel and offices it might not be attractive to residents.
Monsma said project architects have attempted to open up the green space to the public by removing fencing planned earlier and designing diagonal walkways into the project. She said Southmark is open to suggestions on how the park can be made most appealing to residents. "Maybe we can come up with a consensus on what would make people feel comfortable coming in here," she said.
Paul Rosenstein, a member of the Mid-City Neighbors who was on the team that helped negotiate the development agreement between Becket and the city, said that because of the intricacies of the Southmark plan, residents want to study it and come to an agreement on what would be best for the neighborhood.
"There are mixed feelings (about the plan)," he said after the meeting. "There is a lot of confusion because of the complexities. . . . We hope to bring the neighborhood together. Our feeling is that the neighborhood can have a significant impact on the final design through the political process and legal avenues."
Asked about the impact of the Aug. 1 expiration of the development agreement, Rosenstein said, "I think there are other options than the ones they have proposed on what would happen if the development agreement expired with no construction having taken place," he said. "They have said that they would be free to build wall-to-wall offices," but if the agreement were to expire the project would be subject to an extensive review process and possibly council approval, he said.
Rosenstein said that the Mid-City Neighbors will meet on Tuesday to discuss the plan. Residents had significant impact on earlier planning, he said, and "there is no reason to think we won't come to an amicable agreement with the city and the developer (this time)."