The meeting of the Culver City Council and Redevelopment Agency Monday night saw local citizens not happy with a proposed project which garnered unanimous Council/Agency approval in spite of community concerns.
The approval of issuances for the RFQ and RFP involved the development of city owned property at the northeast and northwest corners of Centinela Avenue and Washington Boulevard. The issuance of the RFQ was for the purpose of soliciting developer interest in the development of a “market hall” on the property at the two corners, while the issuance of the RFP was for the purpose of designing and constructing a parking structure on the property.
Currently, there are fences around the lots at these two corners, which comprise a total of 70,000 square feet. Previous projects with two prospective developers did not meet community needs and were not financially feasible. City staff’s recommendation on the joint item was that the site be developed as a market hall, with specialty vendors selling gourmet food items.
The proposed parking structure however, generated some concern among residents. Mentioned were the structure’s proposed size (listed as three stories in the staff report but actually two stories according to Community Development Director Sol Blumenfeld), concern about increased traffic, and the project’s overall lack of appeal as a “pedestrian-friendly” project.
Blumenfeld countered these objections. “Market halls are renowned to be pedestrian generators,” he said. The parking structure, he noted, would be no taller than a single-family home and would be screened from view. Above all, he reminded the community members that this is only the beginning of the process-the community will have plenty of opportunities for input during a series of community meetings that will be held over the next six months.
Council/agency members liked the idea of the market hall. Scott Malsin said that traffic and parking are serious concerns but they are “separate issues” from the main issue of approving the project.
“Let’s start the conversation” he said, but added that everyone should think about something that would provide focus for the neighborhood.
Jeff Cooper remarked that the lots had been vacant for 10 years and that is a long time for property to remain undeveloped. “It’s great to hear from residents but it’s important to know the process.”
Resident’s concerns, voiced in both spoken and written public comments, were more successful when it came to the issue of a motion picture and television history museum.
Among the advocates were both former Mayor Gary Silbiger and School Board member Karlo Silbiger who mentioned that the museum idea has the support of the Culver City Democratic Club.
“We are the original place where movies started,” said Molly Wilinski, who has lived in Culver City for 62 years. “We need to bring money into the city and a museum would help.”
School Board member Steven Gourley also asked that an ad hoc committee be created to study the idea of the museum. He promised to not be on the committee himself and added that “Gary [Silbiger] has promised to speak against the ad hoc committee if that will get you to approve it.” (This was followed by laughter).
Several people suggested the museum be built on Parcel B in downtown Culver City. Megan Sahli-Wells noted that plans to build offices on Parcel B would result in a building that would be “dark and empty at night” while a museum might be more of an attraction during day and night hours.
However, Andrew Weissman reminded the advocates that Parcel B has certain entitlements that might preclude its being used for the museum site. “That isn’t to say that other sites aren’t available.”
In other actions, the Council, in a series of brief public hearings (very brief since there were few comments and no majority protests) approved resolutions for a number of levies for assessment and maintenance districts.
A Consent Calendar item regarding city commissions and agencies was passed with two sections voted on separately, because Council member Christopher Armenta objected to clauses regarding term limits and civil service commission policies. These two sections however, passed with four ayes and one no.
Also during Public Comment, Paul Condran of the Transportation Department announced that Culver City’s bus fleet has been named 5th Best Fleet in the nation, out of a field of 38,000 companies.