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Council Still Hung Up On Hedges:

Following its review and critique of a new interim ordinance regulating walls, fences, and hedges on July 26, the Santa Monica City Council at last week’s meeting gave a first reading and approved language for the ordinance that extends and adjusts the modifications to fence, wall, and hedge standards.

The ordinance extends until March 31, 2007 the provisions of Ordinance Number 2161 (CCS) which would otherwise have expired in October 2005. It carries forward the fence, wall, and hedge height regulations approved on July 26 with the exception of additional language to the section treating front guardrails and a revision to the hedge definition as directed by Council.

The language regarding the exception to the front yard height limit for safety guardrails was expanded to include walls. The ordinance now stipulates that a guardrail may exceed the maximum height limit for a fence or wall, but only to the minimum extent required for safety by the Building Code. Safety guardrails must be at least 50 percent visually transparent above the fence or wall height limit.

The definition for hedges has also been changed. A hedge is now defined as “a boundary or barrier of plant material formed by a row or series of shrubs, bushes or trees that enclose, divide, or protect an area, or that prevent a person from passing between any combination of individual shrubs, brushes and trees.” The Council stressed that freestanding trees are not to be defined as hedges.

During the extended time granted by the interim ordinance, staff will prepare permanent language as part of the comprehensive revision of the City General Plan’s land use element and Zoning Ordinance.

The Council also heard the first reading of an ordinance amending Section of the Municipal Code to allow existing commercial and industrial uses with valid conditional use permits without expiration dates to remain, subject to  a renewed  Conditional Use Permit.

The   following ordinances were adopted after the second reading: an ordinance amending Section 4.68.160 of the Municipal Code to establish a new 5/10 K race route; an interim ordinance extending provisions of Interim Ordinance No. 2159 (CCS) to allow administrative approval of the number and type of driveways required for parking structures with over 40 spaces; an ordinance adopting the 2005 edition of the California Energy Code and local amendments to the California Building, Energy and Plumbing Codes related to fire sprinklers in existing buildings; and an ordinance amending non-substantive provisions of Sections 9.36.120 and 9.36.180 of the Landmarks Ordinance to eliminate actual or potential ambiguities.

In other business, after several postponements, a number of residents addressed the Council on the   issue of day laborers who congregate at the corner of 11th and Colorado while waiting for jobs. Linda Rider, who lives in the area, spoke of the problems created by the laborers. Neighbors have reported  public urination and defecation,  as there are no  public restrooms nearby, disruptive behavior, and littering,  with a preponderance of beer cans.

There have been arrests for drugs and gambling, as well as one report of rape. Rider had circulated a petition among her neighbors, which she presented to the Council, and requested that a “no loitering zone” be created, noting that the creation of a “day laborer center, ” such as the one at Exposition Blvd in West Los Angeles, might eliminate the problems.

Two other residents also spoke of the need to clean up the intersection, while local activist Jerry Rubin said that a no-loitering zone would be a violation of rights and that the problem could easily be corrected via law enforcement, since almost all of the problems cited by area residents are illegal.

City Manager Susan McCarthy reported that the City has, in the past, looked at ways to address the problem of day laborers on the streets and considered establishing a day laborer center.

“Regrettably,” she said,  ”We were unable to come up with the level of business support for a center.”

The West L.A. day laborer center is supported by businesses in the area, but similar support has not been offered in Santa Monica. McCarthy concluded  that the City would take another look at the possibilities.

The Council also discussed a development agreement involving a project at1327-1337 Ocean Avenue. The proposed 75-room hotel would incorporate two landmark buildings, and has been previously reviewed and approved by both the Planning Commission and the Landmarks Commission.  Council Mayor Pro Tem Herb Katz recused himself from the discussion because he works for RTK, the architectural firm originally attached to the project. Speaking for the developer, Ben Resnick assured the Council that RTK is no longer involved in any way, as another architect has been contracted for the project.

In other actions, the  Council   passed a resolution authorizing the issuance of Wastewater Enterprise Revenue Bonds, discussed changes to California’s density bonus law, and directed staff to prepare an ordinance restricting the public distribution of commercial product samples and promotional materials to the areas of the Santa Monica Pier and the Bayside District.

The Council also approved the creation of an ad hoc subcommittee to oversee recruitment of candidates for the City Manager position soon to be vacated by  McCarthy. The Council will direct city staff to engage an executive search firm.In other business, appointments were made to fill vacancies on two commissions. Kelly Wallace was  confirmed  to fill a vacancy on the Bayside District Corporation for a term ending June 30, 2007. Charles Mutillo was appointed to a vacancy on the Building and Safety Commission for a term ending June 30, 2008. Appointments to vacancies on the Disabilities Commission, Social Services Commission, and Commission for the Senior Community were postponed.

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