A recently released plan for redevelopment of the Metro bus storage facility site on Santa Monica Boulevard is a “starting point” to begin the process of an environmental and public review according to Charles Cohen.
“We are still in the early stages of a process that will give you, city residents, Metro, the Sheriff and all stakeholders numerous opportunities to shape the proposed project, and of course nothing can be approved without your approval,” Cohen said in a letter to the West Hollywood City Council. Cohen’s Cohen Brothers Realty Corp. of California is trying to negotiate a contract with Metro that would let it redevelop the 10.4-acre site.
Cohen’s letter comes in response to criticism by some Council members and local residents of a recently released design for the Design Village project, which would include 1.35 million square feet of residential, commercial and public space, including a new City Hall and Sheriff’s Station.
Mayor John D’Amico last week described a rendering of the Cohen project as “an amateur rendering of a disaster.”
“It would be my position that any development of this size in that location would go before the voters and not the Council,” D’Amico said.
Councilmember John Heilman also criticized the project as shown in the rendering. “The proposal that was given to the city regarding the MTA site is both unacceptable to the community and the city,” he said. “Giving one developer exclusive access to the site is extremely problematic, and the priority for this site from a city and community perspective should be a re-imagination of the yard to significantly reducing the number of buses that receive regular maintenance here. This site should be a hub for transit users, pedestrian-oriented and reflect the character and heart of the city.”
The City Council on Monday will consider a recommendation from the Community Development Department that the city ask Metro not to renew a contract that has given Cohen Brothers Realty the exclusive right to negotiate with Metro to redevelop the property. That agreement is set to expire April 17. The Council also will be asked to authorize city staffers to work with Metro and Los Angeles County, which owns the adjacent site on which the Sheriff’s Station sits, to develop a plan to collaborate on possible development of the site and a study of the feasibility of a Metro rail station.
In his letter to the Council, Cohen said that he and his team have engaged the city in planning for the project.
“At my explicit direction, my team has made extensive efforts to keep the city informed of everything we are doing as we work our way toward starting the application, environmental review and public hearing process,” he said. “I’ve met with each of you to learn your thoughts regarding the variety of uses that you envision for this important site.”
Cohen said that input from city staffers led to the addition of a “portal” near the intersection of Santa Monica and San Vicente boulevards that could provide an entrance to an underground rail station if Metro were to extend a rail line into West Hollywood. He also said that the residential and commercial space proposed for the site is necessary to finance a proposed 50,000-square-foot City Hall and 50,000-square-foot Sheriff’s Station. “The only option to be able to viably finance these significant and important public uses is for the project also to contain substantial private non-government uses,” he said.
The City Council will discuss the Community Development Department recommendations at its meet at 6:30 p.m. Monday at the City Council Chambers, 625 N. San Vicente Blvd. south of Santa Monica.