Santa Monica’s City Council decided Tuesday, October 23, to extend an emergency ordinance for another 18 months to protect the City’s industrial lands from development. This was done so the City can complete its plan for the area through the update of the Land Use and Circulation Elements of the City’s General Plan.
The 60-day emergency ordinance was approved on August 28, according to the City staff report, in response to negative development trends being observed, including “development of large, dense blocks of a single residential housing without adequate infrastructure, amenities, and services, increased conflict between housing and existing uses, and increased speculative development pressure.” Other concerns included “lack of adequate roadway structure, lack of a neighborhood environment, precluding opportunities for improving traffic conditions through the development of the light rail, revising the street grid, and lack of usable open space and public spaces.”
This ordinance limits the authorization of projects without a Development Agreement (where a developer must show benefits to the community to obtain City approval for their project) to 7,500 square feet in the industrial zones, and restricts the change of use of structures in these areas as well.
Councilmember Ken Genser encouraged his colleagues to support the extension of the ordinance because in his view, “I think this is a reasonable set of rules based on trying to balance all the competing interests and within the framework of existing state laws…to significantly slow down…development in these two areas [City’s Light Manufacturing District and M1 zones].”
Councilmember Kevin McKeown at first voted against extending the ordinance because he said the ordinance permitted the development of market rate housing in industrial areas but did not help ensure that affordable housing could be built there by giving special incentives. He noted, “These are some of the few areas in town where the land is still inexpensive enough to make affordable housing possible at all.” However, he changed his vote “because of the need to protect this part of our City” and because five Council votes were needed to extend the ordinance.
Mayor Richard Bloom also voted against supporting the ordinance, but changed his vote without an explanation after McKeown changed his vote.
At the October 9 Council meeting, the Council authorized City staff to study and develop recommendations on how the City could create an effective ban on the use of plastic bags by commercial entities in the City.