Next Tuesday, September 13, Santa Monica’s City Council will discuss a new downtown development and design ordinance that was developed in 2003-2004 by City planners and their consultant, the ROMA Design Group.
The proposed ordinance would set detailed design guidelines and development standards for the City’s R2, R3, and R4 multi-family residential districts, as well as streamlining the public review process for such projects.
Currently, the Planning Commission reviews all projects over 7,500 square feet and the Architectural Review Board (ARB) reviews all projects — except single homes proposed in City R-1 Districts. Public comment is taken at both Commission and ARB hearings.
The proposed ordinance would, according to last year’s staff report, allow “buildings that conform [to the development guidelines and standards] move more expediently through the process because they do not warrant review and approval by the Planning Commission and ARB. However, if a design is proposed that is inconsistent with the design standards, it would have to obtain ARB approval.”
The staff developed the ordinance in response to a City Council directive that requested a revised process that would bring “consistency and clarity” to the approval of new developments.
A vote on the ordinance last year was delayed when residents expressed opposition to the diminution of their role in the review process.
At the time, City staff recommended that the Council refrain from enacting any new standards until the City’s revision of the land use and circulation elements of its General Plan was complete. But the Council “decided earlier this year to go forward,” according to City Senior Planner Paul Foley.
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 use element’s goals and objectives into standards and procedures. They were last updated in 1984.Though staff reports are supposed to be available one week prior to City Council meetings, the staff report for this proposed ordinance was not available on Tuesday, September 6.