Members of Santa Monica’s City Council continued their review of the Draft Land Use and Circulation Element (Draft LUCE) by endorsing several of its key strategies on June 24.
The strategy for districts and transit villages was the most controversial and was the only one that evening that did not receive a unanimous vote. The document classifies areas of the city into districts based upon a common set of uses or purposes such as medical or industrial uses. The transit villages (Bergamot Village and Mixed Use Creative) are focused on areas that will be located by the future Expo Light Rail stations. There was considerable discussion on what the ratio of commercial to residential should be in the Mixed Use Creative district and in the end the Council voted 5 to 2 to have the ratio be 50/50 with a 5 percent deviation in either direction. Also approved was having the development ratio reviewed every two years. Council member Kevin McKeown voted against the motion because to him the strategy adopted for the Mixed Use Creative “fails to protect the existing residential and insufficiently incentivizes new housing.” Council member Robert Holbrook voted “no” because he felt the ratio should reflect more of an emphasis on commercial in order to create jobs. Also part of the endorsement was the concept to not prohibit auto dealers from developing dealerships on Lincoln Boulevard. A motion to remove the Village Trailer Park from the Mixed Use Creative failed.
Also endorsed was the strategy for the development of the city’s activity centers. The Draft LUCE identifies five locations that would be adjacent to major city transit corridors that have the potential to qualify as activity centers. These centers would contain a mix of uses including grocery/drug stores, local-serving retail and convenience services, local-serving offices, capacity for shared parking, and new housing opportunities. Public gathering spaces, widened sidewalks, transit facilities, landscaping and public arts may also be potentially incorporated.
Council member Richard Bloom’s suggested having a Council study session at the appropriate time to discuss the boundaries, community benefits, and goals of the activity centers before any center projects goal forward. This suggestion was included as part of the Council’s endorsement of the activity center strategy.
A mix of uses strategy was also approved. This strategy calls for having boulevard buildings with ground level retail and an emphasis on residential development on the upper floors. The Council’s approval of this strategy included Council member’s McKeown’s suggestion that city staff come back with more specific information on locating non-residential uses on upper floors in boulevard developments.
Prior to the endorsements, the Council heard from more than 40 speakers. Many of the speakers were either Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce (SMCC) members, representing the auto dealerships or both. SMCC President/CEO Laurel Rosen summed up the consensus of the Chamber speakers and auto dealers when she stated small businesses make up the vast majority of the Chamber’s members and the fiscal health of the city is due to contributions from businesses. These businesses include retail, hotels, auto dealers, offices uses, small professional offices and other firms. “The LUCE should allow these industries to continue and not limit the city’s ability to maintain and grow the industries that are an important part of our local economy.” She also requested that the LUCE “allow the auto dealers to remain competitive with surrounding neighborhoods so they can continue as a viable industry in Santa Monica.” Lastly, she asked that the LUCE should be friendly to local serving businesses especially those on the city’s boulevards by allowing business uses above boulevard ground floor retail uses.
The Council also heard from the residents. The Chair of the Wilshire/Montana Neighborhood Organization, Valarie Griffin stated that her group “would like the activity centers goals to explicitly include a moderately priced neighborhood serving full service grocery store’ rather than just a grocery store. Wilmont also wants the residents to be included in the development process for the activity centers from the beginning.
A representative from the Village Trailer Park, Gail Cooper, told the Council that since the owner of the park notified the residents about closing the park three residents have lost their lives. One death was due to over exposure and the other two were due to suicide because of concern over the closure.
The next Council hearing on the Draft LUCE will be on Thursday, July 1 at 6:30 p.m. Topics on the agenda are sustainability, monitoring, implementation, building heights, and the beginning of the Council’s deliberations. This special meeting will be held at City Hall in the City Council Chambers which is located at 1665 Main Street, Room #215.
Further information on the LUCE process can be found at