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Santa Monica commissioners want big park on downtown site slated for development

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The project’s height was just scaled back but that’s not enough for some

Santa Monica’s Recreation and Parks Commission is recommending that a public park be built on more than two-thirds of a downtown site where a 12-story mixed-use development called Plaza at Santa Monica is planned, reports the Santa Monica Lookout.

The commission’s unanimous decision echoes calls from a contingent of “slow-growth” advocates who have mounted a campaign that favored putting a park on at least 75 percent of the site at the southwest corner of Arizona Avenue, between Fourth and Fifth streets.

“The Council has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create a public park people will cherish ten and 100 years from now, an opportunity that won't come again,” commission chairman John Cyrus Smith told the Lookout.

Smith says Santa Monica is “park poor” and needs all the green space it can get. (A 2016 study of parks by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors found that Santa Monica’s park space per resident is below the county average, though the city has “moderate” park need overall.)

The plaza would rise on nearly 3 acres of city-owned land. Designed by Rem Koolhaas’s OMA firm and developed by Metropolitan Pacific Capital, the project has been in the works for years and has had many revisions to its height and makeup.

The developers recently decided to shave down the height to a maximum of 129 feet (instead of 148 feet), take out much of its proposed office space, and add hotel rooms.

As proposed, the complex would include 106,000 square feet of creative office space, a 280-room hotel, retail and restaurants, and 48 units of affordable housing. The project would also include some public open space: a plaza, two ground-floor pocket parks, a park on the second floor, and 12,000 square feet of space for cultural programs.

Incorporating a park is one of the options the city is studying in an environmental impact report for the site. That report hasn't been released yet, and it wasn't immediately clear how having a big park might impact the size of the big mixed-user.