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Council Continues To Adjust Regulations For Auto Dealerships:

Hannah Heineman

Mirror Staff Writer

Santa Monica automobile dealerships will now have an easier time doing business in the City of Santa Monica. The City Council has extended and modified the interim ordinance it approved on March 28 until July 10, 2008, which will help the dealerships without disrupting the quality of life for neighboring residents.

At stake for the City was crafting an ordinance that responded to the years of complaints by a segment of the City’s business community, that contributes about 20 percent of the City’s annual sales tax revenue, while also responding to the issues raised by nearby residents.

Modifications to the interim ordinance now include permitting dealers to be exempt from providing on-site employee parking if the dealer either complies with the City’s Transportation Demand Ordinance and has a City approved shuttle plan or provides an off-site parking facility on a convenient bus line as well as a transit pass. Another change will be allowing inventory storage on R-1 lots that are located on residential streets if the dealer is in compliance with the dealership’s original permit. Finally, the interim ordinance includes a 50 percent discount for rooftop parking.

This ordinance also now permits auto dealerships to operate in the M-1 (light industrial zone) area of the City and to construct facilities in the Light Manufacturing Studio District (LMSD) with the same height limit, 35 feet, as other LMSD commercial buildings.

Also part of the approved ordinance is a provision which allows those dealers that have already been operating in the multi-family R2 and R3 City zones to construct inventory storage structures that could include rooftop parking if they include a six-foot parapet or screen wall. Finally, provisions were also made for the City to review dealer applications on a case-by-case basis on how dealers unload their inventory. This was significant because in many cases on-site loading is difficult, so it must be done in the public right-of-way, which can greatly impact nearby residents.

In agreement with several other auto dealership owners who spoke, Mark Harding told the Council he supported the proposed ordinance because it was a “less adversarial approach than it has been in the past.”

In other action, the Council approved the proposed Downtown Parking Program. This ten-year phased strategic plan includes the seismic retrofit of two nine-story parking structures (Numbers 2 and 4); the tearing down and rebuilding of three five-story parking structures (Numbers 1, 3 and 6), with up to 712 additional spaces; and adding up to two new parking structures, containing a maximum of 1,000 additional spaces. Council members also made it clear they wanted to be able to reevaluate whether the proposed 1,712 parking spaces are still needed when the aspects of the plan that include them are implemented.

Lastly, the Council approved an $8 million design-build contract with Morley Construction for a new maintenance building and surface parking lot as part of the Big Blue Bus Facility Expansion Project. They also approved $5.57 million to construct the Ocean Park Community Corporation (OPCC) Access Center on the facility site.

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