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Gridlock Fears in Santa Monica : Residents Seek to Delay Major Development Plans

Times Staff Writer

Raising the specter of gridlock, Santa Monica residents have launched a petition drive to force the city to delay approval of all large construction projects, including the last section of Colorado Place and proposed developments at the airport.

Duke Kelso, a Santa Monica building contractor and community activist, organized a meeting of 80 residents Monday night to protest Phase III of Colorado Place and the Water Garden development planned for the area bordered by 20th and 26th streets and Broadway and Olympic Boulevard. The Colorado Place project involves more than 1 million square feet of office and retail space.

Kelso said the city has failed to adequately assess the impact of the proposed construction on traffic.

“We’ve already seen a lot of residential streets turn into the Indy 500,” he said.

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“Wild, uncontrolled development causing gridlock is going on all around us,” said Joe Hartnett, a 19-year Santa Monica resident.

Residents at the meeting at the Edison School, said they were alarmed by traffic congestion at the Cloverfield Boulevard ramps to the Santa Monica Freeway and fear that new large developments will increase traffic on residential streets.

“People are up in arms, and the traffic will be just unbearable in our neighborhood,” said one resident who lives near the Colorado Place project.

Study Expected

“What I’ve heard tonight absolutely petrifies me,” added another resident who said she moved away from the neighborhood near the Westside Pavilion to escape traffic there.

Residents circulated an open letter to the City Council and a petition that calls for the city to postpone approval of development projects larger than 40,000 square feet until a citywide traffic study is completed and evaluated. The study is expected in a few months.

The City Council came in for harsh criticism at the meeting.

“Our city has held open the door for the developers,” said Hartnett, who played a tape of a recent council meeting in which Mayor James Conn said, “We are in for gridlock in Santa Monica no matter what we do.”

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Hartnett said this statement typifies the council’s inattention to legitimate concerns of residents.

Kelso and Hartnett criticized the council for rejecting a proposal to prohibit buildings that would increase traffic at busy intersections. The council at its June 30 meeting unanimously adopted a policy that calls for increased consideration of traffic issues but would weigh them against the benefits of a given development.

Hartnett urged residents to “look for City Council members more in tune with the times,” a comment that drew spirited applause from the audience.

Defense of Record

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City Council members at the meeting defended the council’s record in limiting growth. A council commitment to controlled growth “is the reason we do not have high-rises parading down Wilshire as they do in West Los Angeles,” said Councilman Dennis Zane.

The traffic policy was necessary, according to Zane, because the city is rewriting its zoning laws.

When a resident asked Councilwoman Christine Reed why the city considers development projects while zoning laws are being rewritten, she said the city “can’t refuse to hear” a proposal.

“We can apply standards to it . . . but we can’t refuse to hear it,” she added.

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Jerome Snyder, developer of the Water Garden project, disputed charges that the city is rushing approval of major projects, noting that he has not yet had a meeting with the Planning Commission.

No Tax Burden

Snyder dismissed charges that taxes would be raised to finance added demands for city services such as the sewer system and the police department.

The project “will add more money to the community than it takes out,” he said.

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Stephen Jones, a lawyer representing the Southmark Corp., builders of Colorado Place, said that project also would more than pay for the additional services needed.

Hartnett and Kelso said Monday’s meeting is a sign of a rising slow-growth sentiment in Santa Monica.

“This is the issue for 1987 in Santa Monica as well,” Kelso said, referring to the slow-growth movements in Los Angeles and San Diego.


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