Santa Monica’s Planning Commission second study session of the Draft Land Use and Circulation Element (Draft LUCE) document began with the commissioners expressing reservations about the review process.
The City’s Director of Planning and Community Development, Eileen Fogarty, and the City’s Land Use Attorney, Barry Rosenbaum, explained to the Commission that during the Commission’s December 9 meeting they were permitted to ask questions but couldn’t make any formal recommendations about changes to the document. Rosenbaum stated that this was necessary so that there could be a “stable project document” to be used for the preparation of the Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR). However, comments could be made when they reviewed the DEIR which is expected to be ready in mid-January.
This struck the ire of Commissioner Jay Johnson who stated, “I sense a frustration certainly on my part … that we want to help shape this thing not wait until the horse is saddled, the whole parade is ready to start and say okay what do you think?”
Fogarty responded that there would be “a series of work sessions” on both draft documents and that the DEIR was studying a number of alternatives to the Draft LUCE. She and Rosenbaum also emphasized that when the Final EIR comes to the Commission in April it will trigger formal hearings and they will be able at that time to make recommendations on possible changes to the Council.
After hearing about the process Commissioner Gwynne Pugh commented, “At the time the DEIR is in front of us we should be involved with a vigorous debate about what’s going on in it without coming to any decisions or recommendations. I hope the intention of the legal staff of the City isn’t trying to mussel the Planning Commission.”
Rosenbaum responded, “That’s never the intention and even if it ever works its never successful.”
Fogarty and her staff then gave a presentation on the Neighborhood Conservation portion of the Draft LUCE by looking at Ocean Park and Wilshire/Montana neighborhoods.
The Commission also heard from the community. Longtime Ocean Park resident Jerry Rubin told the Commission, “ I don’t think the public is going to be shut out and I don’t think they have been during the whole process. In January and April there is going to be plenty of time for the public to weigh in.”
Community activist Katherine Eldridge stated that the LUCE document “is full of assumptions. Assumptions based on a bubble economy.” She then questioned if the proposed protections would be effective by noting that the definition used for affordable housing only used income and did not include assets and that “traffic growth triggers are based on a skewed assessment model” so neighborhoods won’t be protected from traffic from new developments. She then stated that the “most egregious protection and promise is that development will only occur after the infrastructure is in place.” She then listed a large number of projects that are already near the end of their Environment Impact Review process without any additional infrastructure being added.