At their July 18 meeting, Santa Monica’s Planning Commission decided to support imposing either a Citywide building moratorium or a partial building moratorium until the Land Use and Circulation Elements (LUCE) of the City’s General Plan have been updated.
City staff suggested having a moratorium for just the City’s Light Manufacturing Studio District and the Industrial Conservation Zone (M1) because of the pressure developers are currently exerting to develop residential projects in these zones. Staff, thought that if projects for these zones are allowed to move forward under current permit regulations they may undermine the very purposes of the LUCE, creating permanent conditions that are not in keeping with the community’s vision for the future.
Some of the Commissioners felt differently. Commissioner Julie Lopez-Dad called for a Citywide moratorium for a number of reasons, including the fact that “we are losing our City before we have a chance to put the Land Use Element into place.” She was also concerned that developers who have already built smaller projects are now building larger projects and that the City “still does not have a traffic study formula that works.” Lopez-Dad is alarmed that if there is a moratorium in only certain zones, developers will begin to put more pressure on other zones.
Commissioner Darrell Clarke felt “multi-family residential zones need to be included” in a moratorium so the City will not lose any more workforce housing but instead gain more. He noted that now the trend is to build either affordable or high-end condos and “lose” workforce housing.
Commission Chair Gwynne Pugh agreed with the staff recommendation, saying a moratorium in other City zones was unnecessary because the current regulations were handling development in these zones in a satisfactory manner.
If the City does not put some type of moratorium into effect, the existing permitting and development controls will remain. According to the July 24 report prepared by City planning staff following the July 18 meetings, “These provisions require Planning Commission and ARB review of projects over 7,500 square feet or 50 units (development permit, CUP), except that SROs are permitted by right, and artist housing is permitted by right in the M1 district. Projects that are less than 7,500 square feet and/or residential projects of less than 50 units are subject to ARB approval of design but processed administratively by staff. Remodels and certain changes of use of existing buildings can take place without community review. Development permits require compliance with development standards plus findings of consistency with basic planning principles stated in the Municipal Code.”
The City Council story on page 4 discusses the Council’s July 24 decision on the moratorium.