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Planning Commission Begins Their Formal Review Of The Draft LUCE:

Santa Monica’s Planning Commission held the first in their series of formal hearings on May 6 on Santa Monica’s Draft Land Use and Circulation Element (Draft LUCE).

The City’s Director of Planning and Community Development Eileen Fogarty explained that the hearings would facilitate review and comment by the commission “on the integration of land use and transportation policies” in the Draft LUCE, and would give them the opportunity to discuss and clarify any remaining issues.  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 LUCE.  Also part of the hearings will be a review of the findings for the Final Environmental Impact Report (Final EIR) for the Draft LUCE and whether the commission wants to recommend to the City Council that they adopt the Final EIR.

This hearing concentrated on neighborhood conservation and boulevards.

Fogarty noted in her presentation that the Draft LUCE protects residential neighborhoods. It also assists with historic preservation in the city by focusing on features that create unique neighborhoods by creating neighborhood conservation programs, reclaiming streets for open space, and guiding residential market pressure to boulevards and transit corridors.  The plan also encourages the creation of complete neighborhoods by providing opportunities for “diverse, mixed-use housing near transit, ground floor, local serving uses,” the ability to walk or bike to services, retail and cafes, and a variety of transit options.

When it comes to boulevards the Draft LUCE attempts to address the issues with city’s exiting boulevards.  The boulevards currently are auto-oriented; not pedestrian friendly and they lack affordable and workforce housing for health care employees that work at the major medical centers that are located on Santa Monica and Wilshire Boulevards. Other issues include poor transition to adjacent residential neighborhoods, small parcels sizes that hinder shared parking and other opportunities, and a lack of amenities to serve adjacent residents.

The plan attempts to address the boulevard deficiencies by calling for buildings that are scaled for pedestrians, having active neighborhood serving retail on the ground floor, and enhancing connections from neighborhoods to boulevards with wide sidewalks and landscaping.  The Draft Luce also encourages a mixed-use housing and open space, enhanced transit facilities, areas for shared parking, usable open space, and provides adequate transitions to protect residences that are adjacent to boulevards.

The commission also heard from the community.  Speakers from the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce’s LUCE Subcommittee dominated that portion of the hearing by talking about some of the key points that they had made in a letter to the commission and other city officials the day before the hearing.  In the letter, they stated that the “LUCE’s vision and core policies will not be realized unless the LUCE is revised to address the specific concerns.” 

At the hearing subcommittee member, Tom Larmore, discussed the need for more shared parking in the city between commercial users and off-site users. 

He also asked that the LUCE permit commercial uses above the ground floor on the city’s boulevards.

Another subcommittee member, Paula Mayeda, stated that the LUCE height limits in non-residential districts were not sound and needed to be revised to accommodate floor-to-floor heights.  Once the numbers of floors in each district are determined they then need to according to the subcommittee’s letter “establish the targeted ground floor height, district by district, establish a reasonable height for upper floor commercial space, establish a reasonable height for upper floor residential space, and provide some height flexibility for design.”

Ken Kutcher also touched on the height issue by asking that landmarked structures be able to have additional height.

Lastly, subcommittee member Kevin Kozal noted that the auto dealerships were concerned that the LUCE was significantly different from the city’s interim ordinance for auto dealerships. Therefore, the subcommittee supported changing the LUCE so it would be more in agreement with the ordinance.

Gary Gordon, the Executive Director of the Main Street Merchants Association felt the Draft LUCE was not clear on how it would “sustain the economy of the city.”

The commission spent a lot of time discussing the height issue raised by the Chamber’s subcommittee and brought up other issues they would like city staff to discuss with them during the upcoming LUCE hearings. 

The next Planning Commission Draft LUCE hearing will focus on the DLUCE’s Final EIR, and the topics of housing and employment, fiscal impacts, and benefits.   It will be on Wednesday, May 12, at 7 p.m. in the City Council Chambers in City Hall which is located at 1665 Main Street, Room #215.


Mirror Contributing Writerhannah@smmirror.com

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