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A Conversation With Planning Leader:

The Mirror spoke with Jay Johnson, the new Chair of the City’s Planning Commission, Monday.

Johnson, who describes himself as “semi-retired,” has a broker’s license, manages some apartment buildings and “is involved in real estate transactions from time to time.” He has been a Planning Commissioner since 2000.

The new Chair sees his role “as providing leadership and direction for the Commission and enhancing the Commission’s working relationship with City Hall staff, the Architectural Review Board and other City Boards and Commissions.”

His goals as Chair include “continuing and enhancing existing affordable City housing” and protecting existing rent controled housing. He would also like to place a “specific focus on the City’s Light Manufacturing District (LMSD) as a primary opportunity for rebuilding Santa Monica.”

He believes the area, which is primarily industrial now, would be “an excellent location for the City to create new housing” in conjunction with the proposed light rail expansion from downtown Los Angeles. He also sees the District as a likely site for auto dealerships, and small service businesses such as plumbers.

With an eye to improving the city’s circulation, Johnnson would like to increase pedestrian and bike usage, and believes the City should run ongoing traffic and prking analyses as part of “a major effort to reduce the problems.” He also believes the City should work in conjunction with the City of Los Angeles and L.A, City Council member Bill Rosendahl on the traffic issues.

Johnson also commented on the City ongoing revision of the land use and circulation elements of the City’s General Plan and Zoning Ordinance.

The land use element delineates the distribution of different types of buildings (housing, business, industry, open space, etc.) while the circulation element sets out the location of existing and proposed roads, highways and other modes of transportation. The zoning ordinance translates the Land Element’s goals and objectives into standards and procedures. They were last updated in 1984.

Johnson stressed that the revision is “coming along nicely” and the “community is responding in a conscientious manner…[he] likes what the City staff is doing…[and] hopes and expects that there will be a clear analysis and workable proposals to enhance the pedestrian and bicycling opportunities in the City.”

The one area Johnson feels the City hasn’t devoted sufficient attention to is the creation of more green space in the City, such as pocket parks, and hopes an “analysis and workable solutions” can be included in the revised General Plan.Johnson is keeping an “open mind” on the Macerich Company’s goal of redeveloping Santa Monica Place. He feels it should be “upgraded” so it has a “modern appeal” but does not have “ negative impact on the City’s sense of space and environment.”

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