The principal item on the City Council’s agenda on Tuesday, June 10, was its review of the Strategy Framework for the Land Use and Circulation Elements (LUCE) of the City’s General Plan. Calling the Strategy Framework “a holistic vision and integrated set of tools to shape the City’s future over the next 20 years,” Director of Planning and Community Development Eileen Fogarty asked the Council, “Do you agree with the vision?”
Though the Council took no vote on the matter, as it will continue to review various aspects of LUCE over its next three or four meetings, it was clear that it saw the vision from somewhat different perspectives.
Fogarty said that the “core values” at the heart of the plan were community (preserving the “small town” feel of the City), sustainability, and mobility. She said that this a “conservation plan” in which 90 percent of the City is preserved in its present condition in keeping with input received at 11 community workshops that helped shape the plan.
Although she did not separately discuss each of “the 10 vibrant neighborhoods” or 11 Districts identified in the Strategy Framework, it seemed that the Bergamot Transit Village, the Memorial Park Activity Center, and the Healthcare District were the focus of much of the planned change. She identified 32 feet as a proposed “by right” base height for buildings, above which projects would be required to provide special community benefits and be subject to Planning Commission and City Council approval.
More than 20 citizens addressed the Council during public comment, representing interests from historic preservation to automobile dealers, workforce housing to bicyclists, hospitals to the arts community. In general, they praised the plan, but each wanted a little more from his or her point of view.
During Council discussion, Councilmember McKeown stressed the need to provide clear incentives for adaptive reuse of existing buildings and the protection of historic structures, and he sought a mechanism to control the “cumulative effect” of multiple development projects in the future. Mayor Katz expressed the need for setbacks at the sides of buildings as well as front and rear lest the boulevards become walled canyons. Councilmember Shriver questioned Fogarty’s assertion that all of the City’s goals were attainable, and he suggested that in a world of trade-offs the Council should ask, “What are we not going to get” with the plan?
Councilmember Genser suggested lowering the scale of buildings on the boulevards and questioned the 32-foot “by right” base height. Councilmember Holbrook expressed concern for the “economic vitality of the City,” saying that the impact of the plan on that vitality must be assessed at an early stage. Councilmember O’Connor cautioned that it was indeed a world of trade-offs, and, for example, the idea of allowing one property owner to sell development rights to another might help preserve older buildings but it would result in increased density somewhere else.
The Council will continue to review LUCE at its meetings this month and next. The complete LUCE Strategy Framework can be found at www.shapethefuture2025.net/ and is available for viewing at the City Planning counter in City Hall or any City library.
In other land use action, the Council, sitting as Redevelopment Agency as well, adopted resolutions making findings and approving the Development and Disposition Agreement and Lease Agreements between the City and Related/Santa Monica Village, LLC for Civic Center Village. Councilmembers Shriver and Holbrook voted no, and Councilmember Bloom was not present.