A consultant has begun work on the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the 2nd + PCH project at the corner of Second Street and Pacific Coast Highway, and the Planning Commission has offered a little guidance to the developers.

    The multi-use project would replace the SeaPort Marina Hotel with a boutique hotel, shops, restaurants, a space for live theater, a bicycle center and 325 to 400 residences. This is the second attempt to redevelop the parcel on the southeast corner of the busy intersection.

    Property owners Ray and Amy Lin, doing business as Taki-Sun, Inc., have partnered with Development Services Group (David Malmuth and Cliff Ratkovich, principals) for this effort. The Lins had given real estate giant Lennar Corp. free rein in the first effort, which died after Lennar could not get City Council support for the project.

    Malmuth and Ratkovich have spent more than a year on the project, creating partnerships with Joie de Vivre boutique hotels and professional cyclist Tony Cruz, among others. Many meetings with neighborhood groups have taken place.

    But at the first public session on July 16, a study session before the Planning Commission, community support emerged as the number-one thing the commissioners were looking for.

    “This sounds good, but I’d like to see some guarantees, particularly with the stores,” said Commission Chair Phil Saumur at the end of the study session. “What you really need to do, though, is with the community groups come up with a viable solution we can get behind. It’s clear that height is the primary issue, and you’re overlooking the elephant in the room if you don’t deal with it.”

    As currently proposed, there would be a 12-story building on the east end of the project housing the boutique hotel and attaching to some of the residential units. Current zoning calls for a maximum height of 35 feet, a fact hammered home by several project opponents at the study session.

    “It seems like the height issue will be what goes long-term here,” Commissioner Alan Fox, an attorney, said. “…I appreciate it when they say that 35 feet is the law, but sometimes, it’s time to change the law.”

    Other commissioners, even while expressing support for the project as a whole said they were concerned about the precedent a height exemption would set. Even Commissioner Leslie Gentile, a self-described supporter, said that the developers had to show that the community would support the added height.

    “I appreciate your approach,” Gentile told Malmuth and Ratkovich. “I believe you can’t eliminate the residential component if this is to be successful, and I’m not opposed to the 12-story height. But I am concerned that so many neighbors seem to feel this will be some sort of tower. I’m well aware that we aren’t going to have this kind of project if we maintain the 35-foot height, but you really need to get some kind of buy-in from neighborhood groups.”

    Seven people spoke against the project at the study session. Most have opposed the proposal at several of the neighborhood meetings. One, Thomas Marchese, predicted that if the Planning Commission allowed this project to go forward, its EIR would be overturned just as the proposed Home Depot project on Studebaker Road was blocked.

    Craig Beck, director of Development Services, stressed that the meeting July 16 was only a study session, and added that another session would be scheduled to reconcile the 2nd + PCH project with the proposed overhaul of the SEADIP (Southeast Area Development and Improvement Plan) master plan.

    Malmuth said that the EIR, to be prepared by consultant PCR of West LA, should be ready by late fall or early winter. Once the draft is ready, it will be circulated for 45 days with comments being sought. Another month or so will be needed to respond to the comments before the EIR goes to the Planning Commission for formal action.

    “We feel like we heard a lot of support (from the commission),” Malmuth said this week. “We heard the concerns expressed of whether the community supports the height and some concerns about traffic and how we’ll deal with that… Now we’ll go back to the community.”

    Carl Kemp, a public affairs specialist working with 2nd + PCH, said the group deliberately did not seek supporters to come to speak before the commission because it was a work session. Malmuth added that he believes the support is there.

    “We heard the comments of the six or seven,” he said. “We’ve heard them before, and understand them, but don’t believe they represent the majority view.”

    No date has been set for either the next study session or the scoping meeting for the EIR study.

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