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Draft LUCE Is On The Way:

Community members and the City of Santa Monica have been working on the update of the Land Use and Circulation Elements (LUCE) of the City’s General Plan since 2005 and now that process is beginning to draw to a close.

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.

Santa Monica’s Director of Planning and Community Development, Eileen Fogerty, told the Planning Commission at their September 2 meeting that the Draft LUCE would be completed by either the end of October or early November. Then the community as well as the Planning Commission and the City Council would have an opportunity to review and comment on the draft. Those comments would then be taken into account for the preparation of the Final LUCE which will be completed sometime in the Winter of 2010. The final document will then be adopted in the Spring of 2010. Work will begin soon after that on the year long process of translating the LUCE’s goals and objectives into the City’s updated zoning ordinance.

Over the last four months the community has given input on neighborhood conservation, community benefits, a growth management approach and proposed indicators for measuring the plan’s success. One of the biggest issues discussed, according to Fogerty, was automobile trip reduction strategies. Strategies proposed were having “activity centers located at Expo transit stations and transit crossroads,” locating housing and jobs near transit, having complete neighborhoods within walking/biking distance of retail services, shifting away from regional commercial venues, and locating residential development along transit corridors.

Another big issue was how to measure growth and parameters to check the City’s success in this area. This included ways to “project future growth in five year increments to be in sync with transportation and infrastructure improvements.” Santa Monica also wants to be able to measure and manage success by establishing performance standards and targets, providing reports to the community and City Council, and allowing the City to “put on the brakes” if the City begins to grow too quickly.

Lastly, the new plan will also help control growth and reduce car trips by providing for increased public review, establishing design policies and guidelines, increasing open space, conserving neighborhoods, creating appropriate urban design principles and giving guidelines for setbacks, stepbacks, and building envelopes.

This new plan will also be different than the 1984 plan because it provides for change in a smaller area, has reduced commercial growth, modifies residential growth, and has enhanced transit growth.

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