After hours upon hours of impassioned public hearings and divisive council discussions that peaked last week with a council meeting that went well into the early morning, the new zoning ordinance update (ZOU) and land use and circulation element (LUCE) amendment resolutions came to a close.
The resolution passed with a unanimous 7 to 0 vote “that only took nine-and-a-half years” to come to, commented Mayor Kevin McKeown wryly.
“This is an unusual continued item. Let me explain what that means,” said Mayor McKeown. “At our last meeting on May 5, we held a public hearing on the Zoning ordinance and we began discussion which went after 3 o’clock in the morning.
“We asked staff if they could make some changes and submit them to us. Being 3:30 in the morning, rather than sit here and wait for them to come back at 4:30 in the morning, we agreed to continue the item. So this is a continuation of the item.”
Council then directed staff to make further changes to specific language in the amendments and then come back at the end of the meeting to present final changes to council for a vote.
But, of course, the ZOU couldn’t go away that easily.
Before it came to the longawaited final vote, Council members had one last opportunity to address Council and the public.
Councilmember Pam O’Connor got things started.
“We’re not the progressive city that folks claim Santa Monica is,” O’Connor said. “The LUCE was progressive. It was a progressive document. It limited development to a few strategic locations, but now we are creating a framework that is going to limit and impede housing development.
“Stripping out the progressive parts of the LUCE is now making Santa Monica for the one percent and that is what this zoning code may be implementing.”
In her comments, O’Connor cited various studies that revealed Los Angeles County to be the most unaffordable rental market in the nation, claiming that the repeal of Tier 3 will only “exacerbate the problem.”
Tier 3 would have allowed for taller and denser developments along mixed-use boulevards such as Wilshire.
Councilmember Terry O’Day echoed O’Connor’s concerns.
“I will vote for recognizing that it is better than the zoning code [we have] now, but that it is a step backwards from the LUCE we had,” O’Day said.
With so many amendments packaged in the ZOU and LUCE resolution, ambivalence was unavoidable.
“There are minor aspects that I wish would have gone another way, but I see myself working as a team,” said McKeown. “I also believe that we have created new housing opportunities for market rate housing and the desperate need for affordable housing in Santa Monica. In my mind, I think we drafted it being progressive without being excessive.”