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Planning Board Reviews Transportation Strategies:

After taking a detailed look at the draft update of the City’s Land Use and Circulation Elements (LUCE) of the General Plan, Santa Monica’s Planning Commission made suggestions regarding transportation strategies to be incorporated in the circulation element.

The circulation element sets out the location of existing and proposed roads, highways, and other modes of transportation. The City’s zoning ordinances will then translate the circulation element’s goals and objectives into more specific standards and procedures.

Jeffrey Tumlin, who is the City’s transportation consultant for the LUCE update, explained at the Commission meeting on Wednesday, May 7, that the community consensus was that “traffic congestion is the biggest concern,” as are parking scarcity and the loss of Santa Monica’s character. The community certainly does not want new development “to worsen traffic congestion,” he added.

The transportation strategies were therefore designed to reduce vehicle trips – in order to decrease CO2 emissions, improve the City’s air quality, improve the community’s health, increase public safety, and promote social justice in the City by making it more affordable to the less affluent. The proposed strategies also recognize that “eliminating congestion requires a regional strategy,” which should include regional development impact fees, congestion pricing, and mass transit such as the Expo light rail and the Subway to the Sea.

Draft strategies included focusing development near transit investments, having new developers meet stronger transportation demand management requirements, “forming district organizations to manage parking and traffic, placing all needs of daily life in walking distance,” and having impact fees to mitigate trips and improve choices for existing Santa Monicans.

Commissioner Gleam Davis stressed that Santa Monica doesn’t “want to be a community where only the wealthy can afford parking … or drive downtown. We don’t want to control traffic at the expense of social justice.” She then suggested improving the Big Blue Bus’s service as a way to help relieve the City’s congestion and parking problems.

Commissioner Julie Lopez-Dad also focused on improved bus service by calling for minibuses to bring students and employees from areas where a lot of them live to school and to work.

Fees for those who cut through the City on the way to somewhere else were suggested by Commissioner Jay Johnson as a way to discourage non-residents from driving through the City.

Lastly, Commissioner Jim Ries recommended that any traffic demand management requirements for new development as well as for existing projects be as flexible as possible.

Katherine Eldridge, who was the only speaker to offer public comment, noted that “this document doesn’t state that the pubic benefits need to be defined by the individual neighborhoods, nor does it note what the real basic neighborhood benefits are.”

The land use element of the draft LUCE (as opposed to the circulation element) will be reviewed by the Planning Commission on May 21 and 22, and the draft document will return to the City Council for its review on June 10.

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