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LUCE Framework Review:

After spending five sessions on a detailed review of the of the strategy LUCE framework, Santa Monica’s Planning Commission forwarded on their observations for the City Council’s review.

This LUCE framework was developed through extensive community input for the update of the City’s Land Use and Circulation Elements (LUCE) of the City’s General Plan. The land use element delineates the distribution of different types of buildings (housing, business, industrial, 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.

The Commission’s final two review sessions last week on Tuesday and Wednesday, June 3 and 4, focused on circulation, economic impacts, and neighborhoods, with additional discussion on boulevards and districts.

Like the others before them, these last two sessions drew comments from the community’s stakeholders. Ocean Park resident Nina Fresco told the Commission she was concerned that the framework did not mention “historic character” in its discussion of boulevards, nor did it mention “adaptive reuse” in its discussion on commercial areas and activity centers. She also noted the framework “missed the opportunity to talk about historic preservation and sustainability” and that “Ocean Park was not considered a future conservation district.”

Santa Monica Housing Council’s attorney Ken Kutcher mentioned that the framework was “oriented towards housing production” and improving the jobs-housing imbalance, but it doesn’t state where new housing should go outside of Downtown.

Sunset Park resident Michael Spinelli’s remarks focused on needing more buses that would run from North to South in Santa Monica because right now the focus is on the East to West routes.

Architect David Hibbert asked the Commission to not have the LUCE fix the angle for the slope of buildings, but instead use “a building volume formula” because it is more flexible and would allow an architect to be better able “to fit a building into the context” of the street it’s going to be placed upon.

Land use attorney Chris Harding noted that the City’s Beach Overlay District contains “25 percent of the City’s hotel rooms and generates 40 percent of the City’s Transient Occupancy Tax.” The City’s current zoning ordinance “prohibits the replacement of hotels if damaged, destroyed, or if they become obsolete.” He suggested, therefore, that the LUCE should permit the City “to retain the discretion to approve the replacement of hotels” as a “hotel preservation measure” because they are a “vital part of the City’s economy.”The City Council’s review began on June 10 and will continue on June 17. The entire LUCE strategy framework can be found at www.shapethefuture2025.net.

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