Santa Monica’s Planning Commission voted unanimously to recommend to the City Council that they certify the Final Environmental Impact Report (Final EIR) for the Draft Land Use and Circulation Element (Draft LUCE) on May 12.
The Final EIR was released on April 24. An EIR were 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. Its contents included responses to the public written comments made on the Draft EIR, resulting text changes, and a Mitigation Monitoring Program. The City’s EIR consultant, Brian Boxer, told the commission that the EIR found that the Draft LUCE “avoids or self-mitigates, nearly all potential environmental impacts of future land use change” over the next 20 years.
However, the EIR found that the Draft LUCE would cause significant and unavoidable environmental impacts to the city’s air quality and noise levels, during construction. Boxer noted that despite the plan’s goal of no net new trips, “traffic could exceed Santa Monica thresholds on Santa Monica streets” and Los Angeles thresholds on Los Angeles streets. Another impact would be that new land uses would result in additional landfill impact. Lastly, there is the potential, despite the tools in the plan for historic preservation, for the loss of historic resources.
Boxer noted that 177 comments were received during the public comment period which in his experience was much less than he has seen “for projects of significantly less size.”
Key issue responses summarized by Boxer from the public comments included encouraging the implementation of LUCE policies expeditiously, especially preservation policies. He also explained in responses to public requests for clarification that the Draft LUCE does not change the city definitions of workforce or affordable housing and that definition clarifications would not affect the environmental analysis. The Final EIR also responded to questions about what further steps could be taken to reduce identified congestion impacts by stating the potential for less concentrated land use could result in greater citywide trip making.
Boxer also mentioned there were a lot of questions about the effects of different land use mixes in the Bergamot and Mixed Use Creative Districts. He noted that if the mix was 60 percent office to 40 percent residential and that mix was reversed to 60 percent residential and 40 percent office they would all have similar environmental effects. Additionally, concentrated housing does not result in less trip making.
Review of the Draft LUCE has been divided up into a series of public hearings due to the size and complexity of the document. The commission at the conclusion of the hearings will also be asked to adopt the goals and policies in the Draft LUCE and to make a recommendation to the City Council on whether to adopt the Draft LUCE.
The next Draft LUCE hearing will concentrate on integrated land use and transportation, transit villages and activity centers, and community benefits.
It will be held on Monday, May 17 at 7 p.m. in the City Council Chambers in City Hall which is located at 1665 Main Street, Room #215.
More information on the LUCE process can be found at www.shapethefuture20205.net.
Mirror Contributing Writerhannah@smmirror.com