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Santa Monica's Refusal to Grow is Driving Out the Techies

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Santa Monica's got a rep as being rife with the kind of NIMBYs who will shut your project down (it actually has an active "no-growth" movement). It's also got a rep for being the hot new tech epicenter as the locus of Silicon Beach (tech now accounts for a full quarter of Santa Monica's workers). And the effects of SaMo's "fear of growth" on that burgeoning tech scene were a hot topic at the State of the City event this week, which brought together big-time business honchos and city leaders to discuss the city's future, which could be quite grim if it keeps refusing to grow. Santa Monica Next reports that one hot issue was the way growth has stalled out and hit tech companies hard, leaving them on the hunt for increasingly rare office space and their workers looking for housing.

Some tech companies, including biggies Google and Yahoo, seem to have given up already, and are defecting to Los Angeles's Playa Vista neighborhood (which has its own issues), or to Culver City or neighboring Venice.

Aside from the lack of office space, there's the issue of high housing costs in Santa Monica. In the past 12 years, Santa Monica has only approved about 67,000 square feet of "net new nonresidential development," and only about 230 new multifamily housing units. That means rents have shot up for both office space and housing; and even if their companies manage to find space, tech workers who can't afford to live in the city have to commute, which makes traffic worse. (And NIMBYs often cite traffic creation as a reason to oppose new development.) The most recent victory for the anti-development crowd in Santa Monica was the slaying of the long-in-the-works Bergamot Transit Village, which would have addressed both of these concerns by bringing nearly 375,000 square feet of office space and 427 apartments to a site right by the soon-to-open Expo Line.

Even through the tech jargon, you can hear the frustration: "It's great to be based here, but it's getting harder and harder to be based here, so there are a lot of startups that are moving to other geographies just to address those particular needs," says the founder of a consulting firm specializing in tech startups.
· Lack of Office Space, Housing Squeeze Santa Monica's Growing Tech Industry [SMN]
· Los Angeles's Hottest Office Hub is a Public Transit Dead Zone [Curbed LA]
· Santa Monica's Bergamot Transit Village Giving Up and It Could Be Even Worse Than Development [Curbed LA]

Bergamot Transit Village

Olympic Blvd. & 26th St., Santa Monica, CA