Santa Monica’s planning commissioners will have an extra 60 days to deliberate development agreements (DAs), thanks to a modified ordinance that cleared both first and second readings at City Council in February.
Council members unanimously approved the City’s municipal code to be modified and to allow planning commissioners to have 90 days after its first public hearing on a DA to conclude its consideration on a proposed Development Agreement and to clarify existing law and practice.
Previously, planning commissioners had only 30 days after the initial public hearing on a DA to deliberate the project and forward a recommendation to council members.
“(The) short time frame does not provide applicants sufficient time to address concerns or direction from the Commission. It further limits the Commission’s opportunity to re-consider the amended project prior to forwarding a recommendation to Council,” City staff stated.
The 90-day period could be extended if the applicant agrees.
DAs begin its formal hearing process with a Notice of Intention to have the Planning Commission consider the proposed project. The clock begins running at this point. It was a concern of the council that 30 days after the Notice of Intention was filed to deliberate and form a recommendation for the council.
“This time frame often does not provide adequate time for the applicant to address the breadth of comments the Planning Commission may have, which can include significant design modifications and revisions to the community benefit proposal,” City staff said. “Moreover, it does not allow the Commission time to thoughtfully consider revisions and then make a recommendation to Council on the amended project.”
With the extra 60 days of deliberations available for upcoming DAs, the process may include an additional public hearing. Accordingly, planning commissioners would be compensated for the additional hearing, a potential added expense as a result of the modified ordinance.
The change in deliberation time comes less than two months after the council voted to slow down the DA application process
In January, a City staff report recommended a new six-step process for DA application, with two float-ups added to the timeline. Part of that process allowed for the DA to spend more time with Planning Commission at different stages.
In all, City staff stated the 26 pending DA applications propose a gross total of 3.2 million square footage of development within Santa Monica, with almost 61 percent of that space dedicated to almost 3,000 units in multi-family residential projects.
According to City staff, the pending DA applications represent a net increase of about 2.5 million built square footage in Santa Monica.