Last Wednesday, Santa Monica’s Planning Commission approved the location of affordable housing units at 1514 Seventh Street, which is more than the mandated quarter mile from a Craig Jones’ market-rate apartment project site at 507 Wilshire Boulevard.
City administrative guidelines for the Affordable Housing Production Program require that if a developer decides to place his affordable unit allotment off-site, it must be within a quarter mile of the market-rate project.
Exceptions to the rule, which permit a distance of up to a mile, can be made only if the developer appeals either to the Planning Commission or the City Council.
According to the City staff report, exceptions are permitted if they “better accomplish the goals of the City’s zoning and planning regulations, including maximizing affordable housing production” and increasing the “dispersion of affordable housing throughout the City.”
City staff recommended the Commission make the exception in thus case because it believes the City will benefit from the “additional housing unit provided, a mix of market-rate and affordable housing will be provided downtown.” In addition, the exception conforms to the City’s “General Plan policies which seek to maximize affordable opportunities.”
The majority of the Commission agreed with the staff’s recommendation. Commissioner Gwynne Pugh, an architect, summed up his colleagues’ rationale when he stated, “It’s very difficult to build affordable housing buildings. The fact that we are getting this additional unit is outstanding.”
Commissioner Darrell Clarke was the only Commissioner to oppose granting the exception, saying, “It does continue … where four market-rate projects are considered separate projects, are administratively approved but yet they are all tied to the same affordable project. It once again brings up this whole appearance of piecemealing as a way around a greater level of planning oversight around these projects.”
Activist Arthur Harris told the Commission before its vote, “There is precedence in regards to this company consolidating affordable units in one project from a series of others. This has a number of effects on the financing of the other projects and their resale ability. We get an administrative approval on the one hand because of the inclusion of the low priced housing and then we say afterwards we’re not going to include the low priced housing….is the course you want to endorse?”
The Commission also upheld the City’s Zoning Administrator’s decision to allow the construction of an unmanned wireless telecommunications facility on the roof of an existing two-story commercial building at 1502 Montana Avenue.
In addition, Commission members also approved the required documents for the construction of a nine-unit condominium building which will be located at 125 Pacific Street.Finally, the Commission approved A Conditional Use Permit for to allow a restaurant to operate at 609 Broadway.