(This is the first in a two-part series. Tomorrow more information will follow about the luxury/affordable housing.)
Martin Cadillac was located at Bundy and Olympic in West LA. The owners worked with City officials to get permits for an oversized development, the Martin Expo Town Center. It is now simply called West Edge.
Construction began in 2019 on the 4.8-acre site, which is a block from the Metro’s Expo/Bundy station, and from Interstate 10, and near the junction of the 405 Freeway.
When completed, the project will have 163,000 square feet of office space, 600 luxury apartments, a fitness center, eight restaurants and an open-air plaza.
West Edge is being developed by Hines, USAA Real Estate and Philena Properties (Martin family). Hines bought into the project in 2017, paying more than $200 million, according to The Real Deal.
In December 2021, Riot Games (League of Legends video game maker) signed a 10-year lease for all 200,000 feet of office space.
This project was not popular when it was proposed. An extensive survey of Westside residents, funded by the Coalition to Preserve LA, found that the majority strongly opposed the gigantic project at 12101 W. Olympic.
For this project, to break ground, it needed “spot-zoning” approvals from the City Council and Mayor Eric Garcetti — a general plan amendment and zone change. This was a middle-class, low-slung neighborhood and not zoned for a project of this size.
Even as neighbors opposed it, it easily received approvals.
According to the city’s Ethics Commission, Martin Automotive and Philena Properties (Martin Automotive Group) had spent $762,771, on campaign contributions to city politicians and high-priced lobbyists prior to those approvals.
Westside residents planned to speak out against the project at the September 2016 Planning and Land Use Management (PLUM) hearing, but according to Preserve L.A. (“Westside Gets Robbed of Public Hearing into Hated Martin Cadillac Mega-Project”), the hearing was cancelled because of a City Hall error (by city officials).
PLUM committee chair and Council member Jose Huizar informed Westside residents they could not speak.
District 11 City Councilman Mike Bonin agreed with Huizar. According to the story, Westsiders went to the offices of Bonin and Huizar, but did not receive a commitment for a PLUM hearing.
“Xochitl Gonzalez, a West L.A.-Sawtelle Neighborhood Council board member, said after being told the public hearing was being permanently canceled, ‘This is incredible, unbelievable. How do elected leaders kill a public hearing on a project that will affect much of the Westside?’”
Residents were told they still had a voice and could address the City Council on September 20.
According to Preserve LA, (“LA City Council Ramrods Approval For Martin Expo Town Center Mega-Project on Gridlocked Westside” https://www.2preservela.org/la-city-council-ramrods-approval-martin-expo-town-center-megaproject-gridlocked-westside/)
“By voting 12-0, with avid support from District 11 Councilman Mike Bonin, the City Council completely ignored the long-standing concerns of numerous Westside organizations such as West of Westwood Homeowners Association, West L.A.-Sawtelle Neighborhood Council, Brentwood Homeowners Association and Westwood South of Santa Monica Blvd. Homeowners Association — all of which believe that Martin Expo Town Center will create an even worse traffic nightmare on the gridlocked Westside.”
The story noted: “Councilman Bonin made a particularly passionate case today on the behalf of Martin Automotive Group, saying that community people were ‘clamoring’ for the mega-project that had ‘transit incentives galore.’ He failed to provide a detailed list of those supposed incentives, and never mentioned that numerous, longtime neighborhood groups opposed Martin Expo Town Center.”
An environmental impact report (a report written by a consultant chosen by the developer) shows the outsized project would create street gridlock up to one mile away, affecting 16 intersections. Those traffic numbers were widely viewed as a serious underestimate. The EIR also said fewer than 150 trips would be generated during AM and PM hours, so no further analysis was needed.
Those who opposed the plan, worried about emergency access, police and schools, but were told there wouldn’t be a problem. (https://planning.lacity.org/eir/martinexpotowncenter/feir/FEIR%20Sections/FEIR%20Martin%20Expo%20Town%20Center.pdf)
(Editor’s note: A June 2022 L.A. Times Story ‘Hit These Guys Up:’ Former Jose Huizar Aide Testifies about Demands for Cash and Donations’ reported that “A high-level aide to former Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar gave jurors a vivid look at the pay-to-play schemes allegedly pursued by his boss, describing paper bags filled with bribe money and demands for concert tickets and other gifts.” Huizar stepped down two years ago and has pleaded not guilty to bribery, racketeering and other charges.)
To see what developers paid City officials in order for projects to go forward, visit Preserve LA November 2018 (https://www.2preservela.org/los-angeles-developers-investigation-fbi-city-hall-pay-to-play-jose-huizar/)