Planning Commission Revisits Gateway

Planning Commission field visit 2/9/2012
Planning staffer Rita Niziri and Commission Vice Chair Craig Corman

The Beverly Hills Planning Commission will again revisit the city’s western Gateway – literally – via a bus tour during the next scheduled Commission meeting on March 8th at 1:30. [Agenda] Reprising their earlier January visit, the Commissioners will get another firsthand look at the Wilshire & Santa Monica Boulevard(s) intersection and continue to discuss the proposed overlay zone there. Read the staff report & show up if you’re concerned about bike lanes on the Santa Monica corridor.

If you’ve followed the overlay zone to date, you’ll recall that the city wants to hasten development of the vacated former Pacific Electric right-of-way on the south side of the Santa Monica Boulevard North corridor. (The T-1 zoned land extends boundary-to-boundary, but the Gateway overlay zone would address the current C-3 (commercial) zone and T-1 land west of Linden Dr – from the Budget car lot west.)

Here’s why we need to care: the Commission was moving forward on finalizing the overlay zone requirements (see our recap). But with 10-foot minimum setbacks, our fear was that we’d never get SM Blvd. bike lanes if they’re literally squeezed out by new development at the Gateway.

In a letter to Transportation we highlighted the problem: not only could we be precluding bike lanes and even a greenbelt (as discussed in the City Council liaison meeting that gave the Commission direction), but here the Commissioners were proceeding without sufficient factual information to really know for sure. Transportation has the engineering study; the Commission just doesn’t have the findings.

You see, the Hilton project on the north side benefits from 5-foot setbacks (too narrow for that project) and the Gateway overlay zone would set 10-foot setbacks. Together they pinch the available width for accommodating traffic and bike lanes and likely preclude a greenbelt or active transportation corridor – distinguishing features that could set out gateway apart. Of course, the greatest risk is that development at the West end effectively stifles any future active transportation opportunities corridor-wide.

Planning Commission field visit 2/9/2012
Getting those setbacks right!

This field trip will find the Commissioners again pulling out the tape measure to see how setbacks in practice would affect the T-1 zone, as well as to understand how the expansion of Wilshire (!) as a mitigation would affect the project currently proposed for the Starbucks site. This might be your best opportunity to buttonhole a Commissioner because you’ll have more than a few minutes at a microphone to make your case.

If you have an interest in keeping this corridor bike-accessible, and if you’d like to see one day a greenbelt (as envisioned) on Santa Monica, show up on Thurs. March 8th at the Gateway Starbucks at about 1:45. You’ll see me there with questions for the Commissioners! [Planning Commission Agenda 2012-3-8]