Shekhter’s WS Communities to list 2,000-unit Santa Monica builder’s remedy project

The firm’s controversial Nebraska Avenue proposal helped ignite statewide debate over the obscure legal provision

WS Communities' Scott Walter and NMS Properties' Neil Shekhter with rendering of 3030 Nebraska Avenue
WS Communities’ Scott Walter and NMS Properties’ Neil Shekhter with rendering of 3030 Nebraska Avenue (WS Communities, Kevin Scanlon, Getty)

WS Communities, an affiliate of Neil Shekhter’s NMS Properties, is planning to list its largest and most controversial builder’s remedy project in Santa Monica, The Real Deal has learned.

The firm, headed by CEO Scott Walter, is currently working with a broker to prepare a marketing package for 3030 Nebraska Avenue, a property in the city’s Bergamot neighborhood east of downtown, and could list the site within weeks.

Walter confirmed his firm was preparing the listing but declined to comment further.

The firm purchased the roughly 2.5-acre parcel in 2007 for an undisclosed price, as transfer tax records were not public at the time.

In October, WSC helped kick off a statewide mania over builder’s remedy, a decades-old but virtually forgotten legal provision, by filing more than a dozen preliminary project applications that caught Santa Monica officials off guard. At the time, Santa Monica, along with many other Southern California cities, was out of state compliance on its housing planning. So that triggered the builder’s remedy, which was included in a 1990 state law aimed at incentivizing housing development by allowing developers to bypass local zoning in cities that are out of compliance as long as proposals have at least a 20 percent affordable component.

Of WSC’s proposals, by far the largest was for 3030 Nebraska, where the firm submitted plans for a 15-story, 2,000-unit apartment complex. If built, the project would rank as the largest residential building in Santa Monica. It would also help reshape the affluent coastal city, where a larger debate over housing density and affordability has also been playing out for years.

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The Nebraska Avenue proposal, in particular, immediately sparked a backlash, prompting dozens of residents — and some public officials — to rally against the plans, even as the city’s potential to stop it was unclear.

After initially seeking outside legal advice in preparation for a likely fight over the project, Santa Monica officials later indicated they would wait to respond until WSC filed its full project application, which is due six months from the preliminary filing.

“We’re not preparing for a fight,” one “slow growth” council member, Phil Brock, said in November. “We’re trying to find out what is legally permissible — what rights do we have, [and] what rights do the developers have. And we hope we figure out a way to work out something together.”

“We haven’t heard from them,” Walter responded at the time.

Even as it prepares the listing WSC is still moving ahead with the full application, Walter confirmed this week.

In November, the firm listed three other builder’s remedy sites, where its preliminary applications totalled about 730 units.