Opponents Celebrate Mini-Mall Defeat

Times Staff Writer

About 250 opponents of a proposed mini-mall at 7th Street and Montana Avenue were in a festive mood Monday night after the Santa Monica Planning Commission turned down the proposal for the second time.

The building permit was denied by a 5-0 vote even though developer Murray Weber submitted scaled-down plans for the two-story project with underground parking.

The original plans, turned down last September, called for a 44,476-square-foot building with 20 to 25 stores and a two-level, underground garage with 148 spaces. The new plans submitted Monday called for a two-story, 33,750-square-foot retail center over two levels of parking with 115 spaces.

Commissioners, in explaining their votes, echoed many of the complaints voiced by the roughly 40 residents who spoke at the meeting. Community objections were also listed in a booklet presented to commission members by the Montana Neighbors Assn.

Traffic, Parking of Concern

The underground parking and fears of increased traffic were major considerations in their decision, commissioners said. The size of the building was also cited as being inconsistent with the character of the community. Most of the property near the 150-by-200-foot parcel is zoned C-2 commercial and about a quarter of it is multiple residential.

Commissioner Eileen Hecht said the project would cause traffic congestion in the alley behind the building and on 7th Street, which neighbors said is already crowded. Montana Avenue narrows from two traffic lanes to one in each direction just west of 7th Street.

Developer Murray Weber told the commission that he had relied on the city's 1984 land-use study to prepare his plan, which met all the requirements of the city's general plan.

"I don't believe the commission should be intimidated (by the mass of people who crowded the City Hall chambers)," Weber said.

Collected Signatures

The opponents, people who live near the Montana Avenue shopping area or whose children must cross Montana Avenue at 7th Street to go to school, had collected more than 800 signatures against the project and put together a booklet for the commission.

Entitled "Save Montana Avenue," the booklet opened with a statement opposing the project, then presented a history of the area, describing Montana Avenue as a once-quiet commercial street with relatively light traffic, where shoppers could walk to the stores.

Arguments for a denial of the permit included an independent traffic impact report and two letters from Assemblyman Tom Hayden (D-Santa Monica) stating his opposition to the development.

Laurie B. Heyman, a spokeswoman for the developers, said the strong community showing and the commission's decision "was not a surprise by any stretch of the imagination.

Heyman said the developer may appeal the decision to the Santa Monica City Council.

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