After a three-hour discussion, Santa Monica’s City Council decided to delay their vote on an incentive-based standards ordinance that would help protect the City’s land use authority if Proposition 90 passes in November’s election.
According to the July 11 City staff report, Proposition 90, the Anderson Initiative on eminent domain, would “impose new restrictions and costs on all state and local agencies’ ability to enact and enforce land use planning, zoning, environmental, consumer and other laws and regulations.” This could impact the City’s density and ability to limit building heights and scale. If Proposition 90 is approved by voters in November, it will take effect immediately. All laws in effect at the time of its passage would be exempt.
Voter consideration of Proposition 90 is coming at a time when the City is in the midst of updating the Land Use and Circulation Elements of its 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. They were last updated in 1984.
At the September 12 meeting, the Council also heard from the community. Former Mayor Dennis Zane, who is also the co-chair of Santa Monicans for Renter’s Rights (SMRR), told the Council, “Market-rate multi-family development, we [SMRR] believe, has had socially pernicious consequences and as a result should not be one our preferred choices.” SMRR’s view is only 100 percent affordable housing should receive maximum density standards.
Ocean Park resident Jacob Samuel reminded the Council, “The residents have made it clear at numerous public forums they want less density, less traffic and the preservation of a beach town atmosphere.”
Another resident, former architect Dwight Flowers, noted, “The current proposal is an accelerated process and short-circuits the planning process [to update the General Plan] that was underway for the past couple of years. It’s being expedited at some risk.” He suggested the City work on opposing Proposition 90 rather than acting in case it passes.
Community activist Arthur Harris pointed out “a lot has been left out” of the proposed ordinance “primarily the downtown and the commercial zones.” He believes the ordinance as currently written “will channel development into precisely the areas where the public of the City has said they don’t want it channeled.” He asked that any action the Council takes includes giving them the “option of coming back” to modify it.
The vote was delayed because the Council couldn’t agree on the incentives. The ordinance will be discussed again on September 26.