I've just read the Places article about Santa Monica in the February CP&DR. Morris Newman wrote, "Seeking to maximize its public investment, the city wants to build one or two 12-story residential buildings along the avenue."
The city has made no such decision, nor is it seeking a financial return on its investment. The city used redevelopment dollars to purchase the RAND site. Under state law, at least 20% of the value of the project must be dedicated for affordable housing. (The city voluntarily increased this minimum to 30% when it purchased the land.) Accordingly, a residential village has been proposed in the draft Civic Center specific plan.
The city has not given final approval to the specific plan. The draft plan (conceptually approved so environmental analysis could occur) proposes a general height limit for the housing village of 56 feet, with the exception of one slender tower up to 120 feet. If this additional height is included in the final plan, and if the tower is built, (both "ifs"), that tower would be adjacent to an existing 1960s-era hotel of approximately the same height.
There is no attempt to maximize financial return to the city from this housing village, nor from any other component of the Civic Center. Much of the housing - very likely, the vast majority of it - will be affordable housing. The question has been how much subsidy the city will have to provide, not how much money the city will make. We are currently exploring options for the mix of affordable and market rate housing to see if we can move the project towards one that will minimize required public subsidies. We will be issuing (or have issued) a request for proposals (RFP) for the housing village to a selected list of potential development teams. In approving the RFP, the City Council specifically determined that responses should be evaluated on a number of values, including "minimiz(ing) height when possible or demonstrating clear advantages for taller buildings, if proposed."
- Ken Genser, Santa Monica City Council member