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Planning Board Hears Business Requests For General Plan Update:

Hannah Heineman

Mirror Staff Writer

During its most recent meeting, the Planning Commission met with representatives of the City’s various business associations. Among the topics discussed were the recommendations local businesses would like to see incorporated into the update of the Land Use and Circulation Elements of the City’s General Plan.

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. It was last updated in 1984.

The Commission heard from representatives from the Montana Avenue Merchants Association, the Pico Improvement Organization, the Main Street Merchants Association, the Bayside District Corporation and the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce.

One common theme was the need for more parking. The Chair of the Montana Avenue Merchants Association, Jane Walker, stated that the “current parking permit process is too subjective” so the City should “create a unified parking plan” that will include “a formula to decide if a street should become permitted.” Her group also suggested the City create one-way streets between Wilshire Boulevard and Montana Avenue with diagonal parking, allow permit parking only one block south and north of Montana Avenue and “rezone for underground parking for employees, not customers.”

Pico Improvement Organization President Charles Donaldson stated that his organization would like to see the employee parking program expanded east of Santa Monica College, to “allow employees to park at metered spaces adjacent to commercial structures” and eliminate meters under the Santa Monica freeway overpass. The Organization also recommended “eliminating center medians for better traffic flow and visibility, increasing the number of left turn lanes and simplifying the Architectural Review Board’s approval process.”

Gary Gordon, Executive Director of the Main Street Merchants Association, stated the City should allow free parking at the South Beach lot on Sunday mornings for the Farmers’ Market, allow employees to park for free in the 2,400 spaces in the south beach lots during the week and reduce beach parking fees. The Association would also like the City to encourage mixed-use construction that would include parking facilities and allow rooftop parking. Gordon stressed that the City should gather more “specific baseline data” on who uses Main Street and how they get there before adopting goals for the General Plan update.

Another common theme supported by all the groups was creating a Manager position with the City that was described by Montana Association’s Walker as a way “to provide assistance to new and small business from beginning to the end with City processes, specifically with the transportation and planning departments” so business owners “aren’t held up for months and months and lose money” while they are waiting for permit approvals.

The Chamber of Commerce’s Chief Executive Officer, Kathy Dodson, told the Commission the City needs to focus on how to provide more housing for those who work in Santa Monica because this would cut down on parking and traffic problems. She also called for a “streamlining of the City’s planning and zoning processes.”

Lastly, Kathleen Rawson, Executive Director of the Bayside District Corporation, told the Commission that downtown density should be encouraged because it allows for a variety of uses. She also suggested better signage for drivers and pedestrians and that “changes in Santa Monica Place must tie in with the downtown.”

For more information on the Planning Commission, go to http://santa-monica.org/planning/planningcomm/planningcomm.html.

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