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News, Landmarks Commission, Santa Monica

City Of Santa Monica Adopts Emergency Landmarks Ordinance

Posted Jun. 28, 2013, 9:18 am

Parimal M. Rohit / Staff Writer

More time might not have been added to the development agreement process, yet buildings designated with historical significance will have a few more clicks on the clock to complete construction thanks to an emergency ordinance adopted Tuesday evening by the Santa Monica City Council.

The emergency ordinance, approved unanimously, amended the City’s Municipal Code “to allow an additional extension of time to complete construction on projects that include a designated Santa Monica Landmark.”

Projected delays at the construction site of the Mayfair Theater, a historical landmark building at 210 Santa Monica Boulevard, spawned emergency ordinance to come before Council members on June 25.

Built in 1911 and damaged in the 1994 Northridge earthquake, the Mayfair is currently undergoing construction. Without this ordinance, construction of the historical building would not be able to continue, according to an attorney associated with the project.

City staff added corroded steel and hollow clay tile were discovered in the building’s structure, both deficiencies the developer came across only recently despite aggressive work on the project. The developer anticipated a seven-month delay to address the corroded steal and hollow clay tile.

With the enactment of the ordinance, a development with landmark status may be eligible for four 180-day extensions from City Hall. Of course, the developer would still have to “satisfy the requirements set forth in the current ordinance demonstrating that circumstances were beyond his or her control and that substantial progress has been made, no health or safety hazards are present, and there are no unreasonable aesthetic or economic impacts to the community,” City staff noted.

Previously, developers could apply for as many as three 180-day extensions, which would be approved if assurances were made the project would move forward in good faith and the community would not suffer due to an extension.

 The emergency ordinance’s intent is to give developers of “Buildings of designated historical significance in Santa Monica” more time to account for design changes due to potentially unforeseen challenges revealed by the discovery of obsolete materials.

“Some of these building materials may have been originally designed to carry a significant structural component to the building such as structural shear walls,” City staff stated. “Discovery of these obsolete materials may result in design changes with construction impacts that affect project scheduling. For existing buildings, the construction phase of the project may reveal significant materials that are not always visually or forensically apparent as they are concealed behind existing building elements.”

City staff did state a majority of construction projects in Santa Monica are completed within the allowed timeframe.

Each request for extension is reviewed separately by City Hall. Under City, a building permit is allowed to expire whenever the construction of a project exceeds the approved timeframe to complete the work.

The time allowed to complete construction, without extensions, is contingent upon the project’s valuation. A $300,000 project, for example, must be completed within 12 months. The time frame doubles for projects between $300,001 and $1,000,000. For projects valued between $1,000,001 and $20,000,000, the developer has 36 months to complete construction. Any project with more than $20,000,000 in valuation must complete construction within 48 months.

According to the ordinance, developers must satisfy a four-pronged test to be granted an extension: construction could not commence, continue, or be completed due to circumstances beyond the developer’s control; substantial progress has been made on construction; no health or safety hazards are presented by the condition of the property; and, “the continued delay will not create any unreasonable aesthetic impact to the neighborhood or substantial economic detriment to neighboring property owners.”

The full council was present at the June 25 meeting; however, Council member Robert Holbrook, who was recovering from knee replacement surgery, followed most of the meeting from another room in City Hall.

As this were an emergency ordinance, it became effective immediately after adoption.

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