May 24, 2022 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

Inconsistency With Small Portion Of Santa Monica Zoning Ordinance:

At the end of the Santa Monica City Council’s recent special meetings, which took place on the nights of May 27-28 for Biennial Budget Study Session presentations, Mayor Kevin McKeown introduced a motion to reconsider a small portion of the Zoning Ordinance.

The motion was to reconsider whether to allow Tier 3 development in an area designated Mixed Use Boulevard Low on Colorado Avenue east of 20th replica watches Street and on the south side of Broadway east of 20th street, a motion that passed unanimously by all five members present (Council members Pam O’Connor and Terry O’Day were not present for the vote).

If the marathon debates over the Zoning Ordinance and LUCE amendments taught us anything, it was that there would certainly be an outpouring of public ire and the-sky-is-falling hysteria, misguided or not.

“This item on the agenda has gotten every conceivable response from my being told that I was increasing development and increasing Tier 3, to being told that I was some how betraying the interest in housing in the community,” McKeown said.“And frankly this motion does neither.”

McKeown said his motion was in response to emails he received that misinterpreted his requested motion, some finding in it, perhaps, their own fears and concerns.

“I put this on the agenda in the interest of consistency and transparency and it has turned out to be one of the more phenomenal political Rorschach tests I’ve ever seen,” McKeown said. “A Rorschach test is where there is a blob on a piece of paper and everyone sees something different, which actually reveals more about the person seeing than about the blob of ink.”

In this case, the blob of ink was only a motion to reconsider a small portion of the Zoning ordinance, not a definitive ruling or final hearing – just a motion for a reconsidering.

Last week, McKeown had oral surgery and was “laid up for a day,” spending that time “in the thrilling endeavor of watching” the entire Zoning meetings again – which would really take more than a day, even for someone with time to kill and Buddhist like patience – “making sure that we didn’t miss anything.”

What McKeown found was that there was an inconsistency. On May 5 there was a motion by Councilmember Sue Himmelrich, seconded by Mayor Pro Tempore Tony Vazquez, to remove Tier 3 from Mixed Use Boulevard Low, except for three places, one of those being Broadway.

At 2:45 am on May 6, as the meeting went on into early morning, there was a second motion that was made to direct staff to prepare a resolution of intent to remove the Broadway activity center from the LUCE.

“When I saw the two of those juxtaposed,” McKeown continued, “I realized that what we had done was on the one hand decide that we did not want a lot of commercial development adjacent to the future Saint John’s [hospital] phase two, which was 750,000 square feet of medical offices between that and the Colorado Center. And then at another point we had decided to remove the activity center but not the Tier 3.”

Councilmember Ted Winterer offered a possible direction that Council could take, a preview to what the discussion will be like later this month when it will be an item up for discussion at City Council.

“I’d make a suggestion that we bring this item forward on June 23, but just to look at a way to no longer allow Tier 3 commercial development in that area, but continuing to allow for the prospect of Tier 3 housing development,” Winterer said.

His suggestion addresses Santa Monica’s perennial housing issues by restricting large companies from commercializing land that could otherwise be used for housing.

To this end, Councilmember Gleam Davis, a supporter of Tier 3 for more housing, wondered why this idea hadn’t been applied to more areas in the City.

“If our goal is to get more housing…I’m just curious why at Broadway and Colorado we are willing to do Tier 3 for 100 percent housing, whether it is market rate or affordable, but in other areas in the City we were limiting it,” Davis said. “So I don’t know that we have to have that discussion tonight at 1:30 am – that’s probably not the right place – but I would like to hear back from people, why that distinction?”

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