by Mark McDermott
Verandas project, a 79-unit building proposed on
Rosecrans Avenue was administratively approved this week by the City of Manhattan Beach.
Approval had been pending since the project plan was submitted late last year, but was not unexpected, due to the project’s eligibility for streamlined, non-discretionary administrative review under the laws of government on housing density bonuses.
On Monday, Community Development Director Carrie Tai released a two-page document allowing the project to continue. The project proposal, Tai noted, “includes the demolition of existing structures and construction of a new 96,217 square foot, four-storey multi-family residential structure, 37 to 50 feet high, containing 79 rental units, six of which will be reserved for “very low income” households, with an adjoining underground garage for 127 cars. Tai also noted that state laws require the project to be approved without the usual “discretionary” review by the Planning Commission, which usually has more leeway to reject or modify a project.
Project Verandas developer Frank Buckley released a statement on Monday in which he also said the proposal met all approval requirements.
“I am pleased that today’s decision letter from the City of Manhattan Beach Community Development Manager indicates that Project Verandas has complied with all state and local regulations,” Buckley said.
The project has faced community opposition since it was publicly noticed in early January, including a Change.org petition that garnered more than 3,000 signatures and opposing testimony during public comments at meetings of the municipal Council.
“It’s a disaster in every sense of the word,” resident Dan Finerly said in an address to council Jan. 18. “Imagine a four-story campus where Verandas is currently located – it will be a complete blight on our community and have multiple negative impacts.
“El Porto cannot handle an increase in traffic,” said resident Jeremy Shelton. “I mean, can you imagine having another 150 to 200 cars clogging that thoroughfare heading north?”
Buckley created ProjectVerandas.com, in an effort to address some of the concerns, specifically that it will drive more traffic and eliminate parking in North Manhattan Beach. The opposite, Buckley said, is true.
“The Verandas project will achieve some important goals for our community, including increasing the number of public parking spaces available in the area and generating less traffic than other potential uses,” Buckley said.
In an interview, Buckley said he was surprised at how quickly the opposition formed given that the project is located on a slope of the hill just below the Chevron oil tanks. But he also expressed optimism that when the details of the project are better understood, opposition may dissipate.
“We thought of every place in Manhattan Beach. That would be most welcomed, given that the only view you block is of the refinery,” Buckley said. “And you take two buildings that are currently underparked and use the Chevron parking lot and the city parking lot for parking. By redeveloping this underutilized parcel, you are able to free up over 200 spaces that are currently used by existing commercial uses. »
The project exceeds parking requirements, providing 24 spaces beyond the 103 required by law. Buckley said it was important to him to go above and beyond to ensure that Project Verandas actually improves parking in the neighborhood.
“It’s obviously a very difficult parking garage, because it’s irregular in size and shape, and it’s on a 30-foot slope, and it’s sand,” he said. “And so it’s an expensive garage, but we’ve decided to go ahead and over-build the garage to make sure we have enough spaces for the intended occupancy. We think parking will be improved quite dramatically.
The developer also paid for a traffic impact study, which determined that the project would generate less traffic than the existing Verandas event space and Tradewinds office (and bar) building. The study, conducted by traffic engineering firm Linscott, Law, & Greenspan, showed that existing uses generate 931 daily trips while Project Verandas is expected to create 578, for a net reduction of 353 trips.
“The point is that the proposed project is less impactful than existing uses,” Buckley said.
Planning director Talyn Mirzakhanian said the city’s traffic engineer conducted an independent peer review of the traffic study and came to the same conclusion. The study also considered redeveloping the site to its maximum allowable, which would be a 65,000 square foot shopping center and generate 541 more trips than current uses, an increase of over 50%.
“I’ve been in this industry for a very long time, especially in the government sector, and I’ve been doing these kinds of reviews and projects for a very long time,” Mirzakhanian said. “And these residential projects, it’s always the same – they produce less traffic than any commercial project.”
In any case, approval of a project such as Project Verandas, Mirzakhanian said, is not at the discretion of the city, as long as it complies with state law.
“The best way to put it is that when a project goes through a discretionary process, the decision-making body in question – the Planning Commission, for example – can insert a level of discretion into the decision-making,” he said. she declared. “It gives them the opportunity to say, ‘No, we think there will be a negative impact, even though it meets all the code requirements…. In these circumstances, the City cannot exercise this level of discretion. It should be based solely on technical compliance with the law.
Given the existing opposition, an appeal from the Verandas project remains likely. For a cost of $500, any member of the public can appeal Tai’s decision to the Planning Commission, and if two members of the city council request it, the project could be submitted for council review. Emergencies