Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights gathered last Sunday at Olympic High School to discuss revisions to the land use and circulation elements in the City’s General Plan.
The land use element dictates the distribution of different types of buildings (housing, business, industry, open space, etc.) while the circulation element sets out the location of existing projects and proposed roads, highways and other modes of transportation. The General Plan was last updated in 1984.
At the outset, the SMRRs were given a hand-out of 29 points the group’s steering committee believed should be included in the revision. A second SMRR handout stated “SMRR’s interest in having a say in revisions to Santa Monica’s land use and circulation element begins with, and always returns to, our goal of ensuring that all members of our community – with all the socioeconomic diversity we cherish – can continue to feel secure in their homes and in our ability to remain in the charming yet vibrant City that we all love. Important factors have limited and will limit our ability as a community to fully realize our vision for ourselves. These factors include intervention by the California State Legislature, loss of City Council majority, limits of local government authority, lack of undeveloped and affordable land, fiscal constraints on local government, regional changes and our own failings.”
The 29 points are:
1. Support programs that seek to preserve and expand the supply of affordable housing in order to maintain the historic mix and economic diversity of the Santa Monica community.
2. Encourage the preservation of existing affordable housing and protect the tenure of existing tenants including Section 8 tenants.
3. Encourage the City to promote public and private development of affordable housing, emphasizing nonprofit housing, including temporary and transitional housing for the homeless.
4, Provide incentives, concessions and streamlined review beyond state mandated requirements for construction or rehabilitation (while protecting the affordable tenancies of existing renters) of housing that will guarantee 80% or greater low-income occupancy, being mindful of neighborhood quality of life concerns.
5. Support policies which ensure the achievement of the goals of Proposition R. (New housing development requires 30% low and moderate income housing per annum in the aggregate.)
6. Urge the City and the Redevelopment Agency to maximize funding for the development and preservation of affordable housing and the purchase of land for low and moderate income housing.
7. Support protecting residents from the adverse effects of residential and commercial development. The city should protect neighborhoods by managing the rate of construction, while encouraging affordable housing.
8. Encourage efforts to preserve existing buildings that add a sense of charm and character to the residential community, like courtyard apartments and cottage bungalows.
9. Encourage preservation and development of housing dedicated to senior citizens sufficient to meet the growing need.
10. Protect residential neighborhoods from intensification of nearby commercial development and concentrate commercial development into a sustainable, moderately dense, pedestrian-oriented downtown which is well served by transit. In addition:
11. We see no basis for increasing commercial development standards in any commercial district in Santa Monica.
12. Provide for declining density standards as development property size increases.
13. Commercial development should be limited to that which can be supported by the city’s infrastructure and which does not adversely affect residential neighborhoods.
14. The City should set limits on total commercial development permitted in Santa Monica based on defined infrastructure capacities.
15. Multifamily housing in mixed-use developments should be encouraged in commercial and other non-residential districts in Santa Monica, especially on properties not now developed with multifamily housing.
16. The issuance of certificates of occupancy for new developments should be contingent upon the completion of all mitigation measures required of a developer in the Environmental Impact Report certified for any development.
17. Future efforts should place greater emphasis upon development of services and activities that primarily serve and seek to attract local Santa Monica residents and visitors from nearby communities.
18. Small, locally-owned businesses should be protected, encouraged and facilitated in commercial and other non-residential districts.
19. The “Sustainable City Program” should become the guiding principle in land use policies.
20. Santa Monica should implement aggressive energy conservation measures in public facilities and encourage implementation of such measures in private facilities.
21. We urge efforts to expand efficient, economical, convenient local shuttle systems that operate between our neighborhoods and our commercial areas, our beaches and our parks.
22. The City should increase use of clean, renewable energy in city facilities and promote the same in the community at-large.
23. The City should promote land use, infrastructure policies and strategies that promote walking, biking and public transportation rather than automobile use.
24. The City should ensure the restoration and expansion of our parks and our public open space. Santa Monica parks should be the pride of our community.
25. We support an increase in non-aviation recreational uses at Santa Monica Airport including the development of active recreational facilities to meet the broad range of needs in our community on residual land not needed for airport purposes.
26. Consider enactment of a “Visitability” ordinance for new residential buildings to ensure the availability of housing to meet the needs of residents who may have disabilities or who ” age in place” and to ensure that people with disabilities have basic visitation access to all new housing.
27. The arts are a part of the success of our local economy as well as a vital part of our community and cultural life and should be nurtured. The City should encourage live-work spaces and the retention of the local artist community.
28. The City should create a cultural center in the Civic Center.
29. The City should support historic districts, buildings and places to maintain historic and cultural depth and the character of our neighborhoods with particular attention to courtyard apartments and bungalows.
The SMRRs also heard a report from City Planning staff on the status of the land use and circulation element update that included the 12 themes that emerged from the community input workshops the City has held. These themes were “a unique city with a strong sense of community, a city rich in amenities, within walking distance to shops and services from neighborhoods, a diverse and inclusive City, a Community built at an appropriate town-scale, a City of strong neighborhoods, protected from commercial and industrial uses, and a pedestrian and bicycle-friendly-place, a City rich in its array of transit offerings, a City where traffic and parking work, a City of balanced growth, a City with attractive boulevards, a safe and secure community and an environmentally sustainable place.”
The SMRR members found the emerging themes insufficient and recommended the the addition of “light rail needs, shuttles from different neighborhoods, homeless needs or a homeless shelter, competing neighborhood concerns, aesthetics, culture in our City, a center for the arts and learning from parking mistakes (so better planning for parking).”Other themes cited were “exploration of developing technologies, a diverse community, alternative transportation for seniors, preservation and construction of affordable housing, bicycle lanes, family housing, the elimination of permit parking and focusing land use with lifelong learning.”