Santa Monica’s City Council voted on Tuesday to endorse the framework that was developed through extensive community input for the update of the City’ s Land Use and Circulation Elements (LUCE) of the City 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.
This framework’s driving force, according to the City’s Director of Planning and Community Development Eileen Fogerty, is to “protect and preserve the character and scale of Santa Monica’s neighborhoods.”
Two other important elements are integrating land use with transportation and proactively managing congestion. The City’s transportation consultant Jeffrey Tomlin told the Council, “Traffic congestion is the biggest concern in this community. You have a finite amount of roadway and we have to make the most efficient use of it.” You do not have “the capacity to accommodate new car trips.” Therefore, new development should be focused on the City’s transit corridors and neighborhoods should contain all the needs of daily life within walking distance for residents.
Tomlin also stressed, “In the larger scheme of things what Santa Monica does [in terms of traffic management] doesn’t matter. It is being overwhelmed by growth and change in the region as a whole” so the City should be focusing on regional issues to address congestion as well.
Another driving force for future development identified in the framework was that future development should contribute to the City in a positive way, and that the greatest incentives should be given by the City for affordable and workforce housing. Development should also be compatible with the City’s urban character and form and respect the City’s heritage. Lastly, all future development and transportation decisions should take into account whether they will be ecologically, economically, and socially sustainable.
This framework also provides criteria to assess the long-term rather than short-term impacts of decisions, and suggests areas where the City’s economic base could grow to ensure the economic health of the City by retaining a diversified economy.
The Planning Commission will now review the document and get into more of the specifics of implementing it, and then the document will return for the City Council’s review again on June 10. Mayor Katz stated right before the Council’s vote that “we must keep in mind…one of the most important characteristics of any planning document is flexibility.”
In other business, the City Council decided to remand the proposed project for 2617 3rd Street back to the Landmarks Commission with the condition that it be a “substantially” different project that is more compatible with the surrounding Third Street Neighborhood Historic District. The Council made the decision because an appeal was made to them after the Landmarks Commission technically denied a Certificate of Appropriateness.