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Changing The Landscape in El Segundo’s Historical Smoky Hollow District

Building in El Segundo's Historical Smoky Hollow District

Article featured on February 2015

City of El Segundo pitching in to help industrial real estate owners in the Smoky Hollow District convert to creative office.

​In El Segundo adjacent to the Pacific Ocean sits a quaint historical 120-acre site filled with mid-century industrial buildings called the Smokey Hollow District. The city plans to allure start-up technology and creative companies to this clandestine area by tailoring the parking demand required by a creative office conversion.​

The creative office space that is in great demand in the Silicon Beach Cities of Venice and Santa Monica is being depleted. Consequently, start-up technology companies are moving south to other beach cities in Los Angeles. As a result, El Segundo is working hard to make Smokey Hollow the next incubator zone for start-up technology and creative firms.

​The El Segundo City Planning Department is currently working on a Parking In-Lieu Fee Program. The program allows developers and property owners to pay a parking fee in lieu of providing on-site parking after renovating to creative office space. The problem in the district is the industrial buildings lack the parking space needed to conform to the city codes as creative office space.

​For example; an existing 10,000-square-foot industrial warehouse in El Segundo’s Smoky Hollow District only requires 10 parking spaces. However, the city codes mandate 33 parking spaces after converting it to creative office space. Most industrial sites in the area don’t have the room to build more parking and the high cost of land makes it difficult for the property owners to purchase.

​As a result, the city is creating a comprehensive parking program tailored to Smokey Hollow that includes a Parking In-Lieu Fee Program for property owners without having to provide on-site parking for the tenants of creative office space, according to Dima Galkin, an Analyst at Rosenow Spevacek Group (RSG) a research firm hired by El Segundo. RSG prepared a parking analysis report of the area and provided a Parking In-Lieu Fee Program and other parking options for businesses.

​The city found the cost of the Parking In-Lieu fee program is quite high and they are making it more manageable by increasing the number of parking spaces on the street, according to Sam Lee Director of Planning & Building in the El Segundo Planning Department. In addition, they recently hired an environmental planning firm MIG in Pasadena to do an environmental study that will take up to 14 months, Lee said.

​The city plans to add additional public parking available by increasing on-street angled parking and one way streets to reduce the number of parking spaces needed as a whole for the Smoky Hollow Parking In-Lieu Fee program, Lee added. “Economics is going to be a key factor.”

​The El Segundo Planning Department staff will be reaching out to the public. Business owners will have a chance to weigh in their interests in public meetings around March and April, Lee said.

​Smoky Hollow is situated north of the Chevron El Segundo Refinery, Southwest of the downtown area, and south of the residential area of the city. It is only a few blocks from Dockweiler Beach.

​In 1911 when there were only farms around, John D. Rockefeller, Sr. thought it would be a great place to build his second Standard Oil Refinery (Now Chevron El Segundo Refinery) in California. There were no housing or commercial developments at the time, and the steam spewing from the refinery pipes caused smoke to billow in the Smoky Hollow area. The refinery no longer emits that much steam today, however, the city decided to keep the Smoky Hollow name for the historical aspect.

​The Smokey Hollow District was once an aerospace and oil refinery subcontractor haven during the 1950s to the 1990s; however, the defense industry was downsized in the 1990s in California. Today very few businesses serve aerospace and the oil refinery in Smoky Hollow. The businesses now are manufacturers, light industrial, warehousing and distribution, and small incubator companies.

​Although the city is home to the Los Angeles International Airport, there are several green parks to stop and smell the roses and walk the dog. In addition, they have three public pools. The small downtown area has been compared to Mayberry clustered with small retail shops and restaurants.

​Author Lee Segal participates in virtually every aspect of the commercial real estate industry from marketing properties to managing projects. In addition, he specializes in expert witness counseling to commercial real estate litigation attorneys in breach of contract, mitigation of damages, environmental, brokerage disputes, property management, partnership disputes and lease interpretation.

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