The City’s Director of Planning and Community Development, Eileen Fogarty, and several of the City’s consultants, presented an introduction to some of the key elements of the Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) for the Draft Land Use and Circulation Element (DLUCE) to the Planning Commission on February 10. City Land Use Attorney Barry Rosenbaum reminded the Commission that they couldn’t make any modifications or comment on the adequacy of the DEIR that night because it was just a study session.
The DEIR was prepared because under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) the City’s update of its LUCE is considered a project and is therefore subject to CEQA requirements. According to the DEIR, the document “will inform public agency and decision-makers and the public generally of the significant environmental effects of a project, identify possible ways to minimize the significant effects, and describe reasonable alternatives to the project.” According to Fogarty the “DEIR found very few significant impacts” because the DLUCE was designed to meet and exceed the statewide standards set in AB32 and SB375 for the reduction of Greenhouse Gases.
Commissioner Jay Johnson questioned the DEIR assumption that housing near transit will reduce car trips by 50 percent. City traffic consultant Jeff Tumlin answered that Santa Monica is “already getting this result” in its transit corridors. Johnson reacted by stating, “This might be the biggest selling point of this project because the biggest fear and worry is about increased traffic and gridlock.” Johnson also called for the LUCE to contain specific policies in the LUCE for Santa Monica to work with the border areas of Los Angeles on traffic impacts.
Commissioner Ted Winter echoed Johnson’s question whether the models in the DEIR that predict if the City adopts the traffic programs in the LUCE alternative, the traffic will be reduced by 10 percent over the next 20 years. Tumlin responded, “Models are poor tools at predicting the future but are really good at comparing alternatives against each other.”
There was also a question from Commissioner Gwynne Pugh about how all the recent conceptual projects that are being proposed near the Expo Light Rail alignment should be analyzed in terms of the DLUCE. Tumlin suggested that they should be viewed in terms of their design, if their Traffic Demand Management Program is in agreement with the DLUCE, and if they are in the right location to create a complete neighborhood. A complete neighborhood contains employment and shopping areas that are surrounded by residential neighborhoods.
The community also weighed in: Members of the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce Land Use committee suggested that the development models in the LUCE were not economically feasible and that the plan’s housing development standards will make it difficult “to get the housing this plan contemplates.” The LUCE should have development standards for 100 percent affordable housing, the LUCE should contain the key provisions of the city interim automobile dealer ordinance, and there should be more flexibility in the height of historic structures were other concerns raised.
The Commission reacted to the public comment by stating they want to have more discussion about building height and floor area ratio concerns, building envelopes, the jobs/housing balance issue, and the definition of workforce housing.
Rosenbaum told the Commission that public comment period on the DEIR would end on March 8. After that, City staff would prepare responses to the comments and the Final EIR. The FEIR would consist of the DEIR, comments and responses, and any changes made to the DEIR that are based on the comments. The Commission will then review the DEIR and the DLUCE on appropriateness, adequacy, and could make a recommendations to the City Council on changes to the DLUCE. If the Council agrees with the changes to the DLUCE, the DEIR may need to be updated to study any possible additional environmental effects. The Council must certify the FEIR before it adopts the DLUCE.
Mirror Contributing Writerhannah@smmirror.com