A room set up for 300 was filled to overflowing, with dozens of people standing in the doorways and along the walls on August 29, 2019 at Temple Akiba. Culver City’s invitation to meet with the Joe Buck Company and 3MR to discuss the proposed development of the property at 11111 Jefferson was one that hundreds of people showed up for. With the air conditioning out, the whirring of a standing fan offered some circulation, but also added noise. The triangle shaped parcel bordered by Jefferson, Sepulveda and Machado, already a traffic-heavy island, is now the proposed location for “The Oasis,” a mixed used development.
The meeting was expertly facilitated by Elisa Pastor, a member of the Land Use Council, in addition to being a member of the Santa Monica Planning Commission. A large projection screen at the front of the room offered diagrams and details throughout the meeting.
Dominic Adducci of the Joe Buck Company introduced the national experience of his organization, and noted that his Chicago headquarters had overseen developments in cities such as San Francisco and Denver, offering a total of 3,850 apartments built.
Rupesh Bhakti of 3MR developer of El Segundo inadvertently drew a laugh from the crowd by saying “We want this development to feel like your back yard.” The cynical sound of the laughter was one of the few really sour notes of the meeting, and Bhakti did his best not to appear abashed.
The development introduced by Pastor was described as being in the conceptual stage, with this being the first of many meetings planned for the community to comment and interact. “This is a preliminary concept; nothing is fully baked.”
The mixed-use project was presented as 279 apartment units, 51,000 square feet of office space, and 55,000 square feet of commercial space with 836 parking spaces. Neither the required traffic study or the environmental report was in process yet, as no permits had been applied for.
Eric Shabsis, the locally based liaison for the development, gave a shout out to neighbors in the room and spoke about the economic growth and change that had benefitted downtown Culver City and West Washington; “Now, it’s our turn.”
With two microphones standing on either side of the room, the residents of Studio Village, Sunkist Park, Heritage Park and Lindberg Park were all ready to take their turn.
People spoke for more than two hours, asking about traffic, density, traffic, amenities, traffic, project costs, traffic and traffic.
Jim Harris was one of several speakers who took exception to the language used by the developers, calling the area “a concrete desert.” Harris noted, “We do not see ourselves as downtrodden.”
Many who spoke, including Christine Ferreira and Michelle Weiner, noted that the need for more housing was crucial, and that the development could be a benefit to the community. Many more, including Mark Lipman and Allen Lulu, noted the homeless issue, and decried the amount of units categorized as affordable.
With more than seventy speakers, Pastor listened closely and answered as completely as possible. Over and over again, she reminded the audience that “We don’t even have plans yet; the development is at the beginning of the beginning here.”
The concerns of the community were clearly about what the impact of such a dense development would be on the neighborhood, and how the quality of life might suffer as a result.
Slightly more than half the crowd was still present as the meeting drew to a close several hours after it began. Pastor and Shabsis offered more meetings, increased outreach, and plenty of opportunities for the community to comment.