By Jennifer Eden
Almost 200 Santa Monicans gathered at the Civic Center Wednesday evening for the much-anticipated release of the Final Public Hearing Draft of the Downtown Community Plan (DCP), a 290-page document that has been six years in the making.
The DCP will in effect, set the stage for all future development, housing, open-space, mobility planning, and services that will be offered in the 230-acre downtown area for the next 20 years.
While the draft serves as a mere launching pad for discussion and final adoption of related policy, key issues in Wednesday’s presentation focused on height and density, green space, and housing.
David Martin, City of Santa Monica’s Director of Planning and Community Development, explained that the most noticeable change from previous iterations of the DCP is the reduction in maximum building heights to 4-stories (60-feet) in comparison to previously-proposed 84-feet limits (aside from the transit-adjacent corridor next to the Metro.)
“We heard thoughtful and heartfelt input from every corner of our community,” said Martin of the plan’s consultation and outreach process. “We know that Downtown is a beloved public space that thrives because of its existing character. This final draft Plan takes a balanced approach towards preservation of our historic assets, the need for more housing options and allowing local businesses to continue to succeed.”
City Manager Rick Cole and City Planning Manager Jing Yeo, both reiterated that the DCP was primarily a housing plan – creating space and housing for people “who work and live here.”
The focus is on increasing affordable housing, mobility and traffic, and preserving the character and scale of the 500 parcels and 500 buildings that exist in the area, according to Cole.
Following staff presentations during the launch event, the floor opened to questions, with many centering on open and green space. Peter James, Principal Planner – Technical Director, explained that private buildings and businesses are being encouraged via incentives to share their open spaces with the community, hinting at concerts and events to ignite a downtown-community feel – proffering Third Street Promenade and streetscapes as open-space options – when met with opposition from meeting attendees he suggested “Advocate for it!” And that’s exactly what residents are being encouraged to do.
The next steps for the final draft DPC include Planning Commission reviews with a published schedule of deliberations of which the community is being asked to participate in.
(See graph above.)
A highlight on mobility was also high on attendees’ agendas at Wednesday’s event, with discussion of 6th Street as a corridor considered by both residents and City planners a like.
And while a general calm permeated the room, there still remains three previously-approved “Established Large Site” development parcels in the downtown area. The DCP draft suggests: allowing no more than 130 feet and only with a supermajority of City Council votes or voter approval, but the final decision will depend on the next six weeks of community and Planning Commission hearings.
To have your say and learn more, head to downtownsmplan.org.