Following three hours of presentations, discussions and deliberations, the Culver City City Council officially approved the establishment of a 2,500 square foot 7-11 convenience store at Sepulveda Boulevard and Braddock Drive with 12 parking spaces.
In the 4-1 vote that took place close to 1 a.m. Tuesday morning, Councilmember Meghan Sahli-Wells was the only one who chose not to support the project in its current format.
The council’s decision brings to a close almost two years of negotiations, including three public hearings, two Planning Commission meetings, several redesigns and a vociferous slew of residential opposition.
Following the decision, Rob Katherman, the planning consultant for the Katherman Companies on the project told Patch that after two years of setbacks, “we’re really glad to see that the project got approved. I think it’s going to be an architectural jewel in Culver City,” he said of the almost futuristically designed structure.
Katherman also thanked City staff for the “collaborative process that has resulted in a smart-looking design for the building.”
The sticking points at Monday night’s meeting focused largely on traffic mitigation and concerns by residents that a traffic study and a gap study provided either incorrect or insufficient data.
Residents argued during the public hearing section that additional traffic would not only cause more accidents in the area but posed a real threat to children walking, cycling or skating to and from the local schools.
Alexandra Mills - an attorney – reiterated the same argument she made at a Planning Commission hearing, namely that a child would be hit by a car one day and the City would be sued as a result.
There was also a lot of discussion around the alley where the Taco Bell is situated and the dangers posed by traffic there, too. It was one of the main sticking points for Sahli-Wells who said she could not support the project when there had been no studies done on the potential hazards from the alley.
However, Culver City Community Development Director Sol Blumenfeld noted that the applicant was not responsible for having to deal with the issues surrounding the alley.
Tom Oliver spoke about constantly picking up the trash in the alley by the Taco Bell, and said, “This project will increase traffic in an already congested corner. Braddock Drive is not wide enough as a feeder street and it feeds traffic all the way to the  freeway.”
However, a couple of residents supported the store. Chris Grossman noted that the empty lot has been “a festering sore” for the past 14 years. He said that Sepulveda is a main onramp to the 405 anyway and the additional traffic from the 7-Eleven will make little difference.
“A vote for this project will bring property and sales tax to the city, increase local property values by removing the eyesore and make the area a more inviting place for other businesses,” Grossman said.
Councilmember Jim Clarke also noted that the small and odd shaped size and location of the site meant that it could only hold a convenience store, financial institution or fast food establishment.
Each of the four council members that supported the project moving forward, did however talk about some of their reservations and came to a consensus because the developer agreed to review any issues at their own expense six months after the store has been up and running, and again after 12 months.
“I don’t think we’re going to know the true traffic impacts until the project is built,” said Mayor Andy Weissman. “I think that the condition that was provided to us this evening that not only provides for a follow up study in six months and 12 months also obligates the applicant should the studies reveal traffic related impacts to pay for whatever the mitigation is to deal with those impacts.”
All the council members agreed that a barrier, median strip or at the very least a No Left Turn sign onto Sepulveda would lessen any potential traffic hazards. Clarke recommended making the entrance to the store on Braddock only.
Katherman told Patch they now plan to start preparing plans as quickly as possible to get the 7-Eleven project moving.
“We hope to have a building permit in three months and hopefully open the store six months after that,” he said.
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