A review, discussion, and public comment on the recently issued Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) on the Land Use and Circulation Element (LUCE) of the City’s General Plan occupied most of the City Council’s attention on Tuesday, February 9.
City Manager Rod Gould pulled from the agenda Council consideration of agreements-in-principle regarding the lease of civic center property for the proposed Broad museum of contemporary art because he thought “the outline of the agreement in Santa Monica bears further scrutiny,” according to a February 2 memorandum he sent to councilmembers. That item, originally on the Council’s January 12 agenda, was not considered when that meeting was cancelled for lack of a quorum, and then was deferred from the January 19 meeting because of Councilmember Bobby Shriver’s absence and the January 26 meeting devoted to mid-year budget revisions. [Santa Monica Mirror, January 21-27]
The Council honored retiring Fire Chief Jim Hone for his 30 years of service to Santa Monica since he joined the SMFD in 1980 after serving as a firefighter in the U.S. Air Force. Hone said that “the opportunity to serve the people of Santa Monica has been definitely one of the highlights of my life.” A farewell celebration has been planned for March 4 at the Fairmont Miramar Hotel.
On the alphabet soup front, the 902-page LUCE DEIR was issued January 21 and sets forth basically the same information contained in the Draft LUCE issued by the City on November 18 and presented to the City Council on November 24, 2009. [Santa Monica Mirror, November 26-December 2 and December 3-9, 2009] What the DEIR does is analyze the information in terms of potential environmental impacts so as to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and give citizens a formal 45-day period within which to comment – until March 8.
As noted by the City Attorney’s office, the Council hearing on February 9 was not required by CEQA, the Council was not asked to assess the adequacy of the DEIR, and Council action would only be taken on the Final Environmental Impact Report (yes, FEIR) after the Planning Commission had considered it.
In sum, planning director Eileen Fogarty said that LUCE had “very few significant impacts” on the environment because it was “structured to create a long-term sustainable community.” Moreover, “LUCE is a conservation plan” in which allowable growth is actually reduced from existing planning limits, and the growth envisioned by LUCE affects only four percent of the City.
Public comment was generally favorable, and several councilmembers raised issues for consideration, with Kevin McKeown wondering whether the definition of “creative office space” might be too vague (does it include an accounting firm that practices “creative accounting”?), Gleam Davis asking for separate definitions of affordable and workforce housing, and Bob Holbrook asking whether growth was a constant under the alternatives presented (“if you squish down [on height], must it spread out?”)
The DEIR is available at www.shapethefuture2025.net and at City Hall and the City’s public libraries. Written comments may be sent by March 8 to Francie Stefan, Community and Strategic Planning Manager, Community and Strategic Planning Division, 1685 Main Street, Room 212, Santa Monica, CA 90401, fax 310.458.3380, francie.Stefan@smgov.net.
The Council also authorized the city manager to negotiate and execute a contract with Cityworks Design ($320,000) to develop urban design criteria for integration of the Expo Light Rail on Colorado Avenue and other streets after the Expo Construction Authority board approved the FEIR for Phase 2 on February 4.