Santa Monica took one step closer to determining how to manage its development pipeline, as Council members gave City staff some direction last Tuesday of what sort of projects could be given priority and which ones can wait awhile.
A shorthanded council used this last week’s meeting as an opportunity to focus impending development agreements (DA) on affordability. Accordingly, developers who seek DAs from City Hall will be fast-tracked by exceeding the required amount of on-site affordable housing.
Just the same, such projects would also have a healthy mix of unit sizes – fewer singles, more three-bedroom units – to allow both families and individuals to live there.
There are currently 35 DAs on City Hall’s dockets. After the Nov. 6, 2012 election saw Tony Vazquez and Ted Winterer voted onto the dais, there appears to be a sentiment toward facilitating a slow growth approach to development.
The Feb. 12 agenda item was aimed at moderating how quickly – or slowly – the 35 proposed projects would be executed, if at all.
On that note, in making affordable housing a key element in determining whether or not a DA will move to the front of the line, the ability of a developer to obtain an administrative approval for the project becomes more difficult.
Specifically, developers of some projects must accommodate households who earn 80 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI) and set aside 25 percent of constructed united for household units earning 60 percent of the AMI.
Other types of DAs that could be given priority: “Projects that produce a high ratio of new revenue” for City Hall.
Cultural or educational institutions could also be given priority.
Council member Gleam Davis liked the idea of batching projects together, believing it allowed City Hall to take a “holistic approach” to development.
“We consistently hear from residents that they want to look at a holistic approach. They want to know how do the projects interact with each other,” Davis said. “If we’re going to build two projects within four blocks of each other it may be nice to see what are the impacts going to be at the same time.”
The council also wanted some flexibility in determining what projects to fast track, as opposed to only giving priority to certain prescribed types of developments.
Beyond affordable housing and projects promoting the City’s “economic health,” the council also delved into unit size. DAs that limited the number of studio apartments to no more than 20 percent of the project could be given a priority.
It was also stressed, however, priority would be granted by looking at the project as a whole and not because a handful of elements the council hopes to see in a development is satisfied.
The council has been focusing on affordable housing since the loss of redevelopment funds last year. When Gov. Jerry Brown axed redevelopment agencies across the state, Santa Monica reportedly lost an estimated $15 million in annual funding for affordable housing programs.
Mayor Pam O’Connor and Mayor Pro Tem Terry O’Day were both absent from the Feb. 12 meeting.