September 27, 2020 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

Council Votes to Permanently Ban Mirco Apartments

Apartments less than 375 square feet outlawed

By Cailley Chella 

Santa Monica City Council made a temporary ban on mico apartments into a permanent ban, when on May 14 they voted to outlaw apartments less than 375 square feet. 

While the Council voted Tuesday to move forward on the ban, they did stipulate an exception for affordable housing projects and supportive housing. 

Santa Monica code currently defines a Single Room Occupancy Unit as one with no less than 175 feet and no more than 375, not including the bathroom and closet.

Council’s action comes after they enacted a temporary 45-day ban in March which expired May 10. 

This was the first reading of the permanent ordinance, and city staff recommended that the ban apply to any market-rate single room occupancy housing project that doesn’t have a permit by the ordinance’s second reading, which is anticipated to be June 28 of this year.

The staff report presented on Tuesday stated that market-rate single room occupancy housing “will also continue to be studied as part of staff’s analysis of new housing,” until that date.

Santa Monica Mayor Gleam Davis said she believes many councilmembers think that single room occupancy buildings do have a place in the city.

  “We simply have this issue about how do we define things and what role do they have to play,” Davis said, “But we haven’t figured it out yet.”

When Council discussed single-room occupancy units back in March, councilmembers said they wanted to watch out for small units and short-term housing for non-residents in the city, in order to counteract the new development trend towards those types of housing that the staff report states, “has been seen regionally in urban-core locales.”

The Planning Commission disagrees, recommending that the Council not ban single room occupancy housing because there’s a need for it.

Santa Monica Planning Commission Chair Mario Fonda-Bonardi spoke at the meeting saying that single room occupancy apartments need to be “part of the mix.”

“The Planning Commission didn’t feel that SROs should be eliminated,” Fonda-Bonardi said.

Leslie Lambert, a Sunset Park resident and Commissioner on the Planning Committee, agrees. 

 “There has been a lot of discussion about our children, who were born and raised here, not being able to afford to live in the city. If we are truly concerned about this and the general inability of middle-income single people to afford Santa Monica housing costs, then banning SRO’s, even on a “temporary” basis, is counterintuitive,” Lambert said. 

Denise Barton, however, a Santa Monica City Council regular attendee, welcomes the ban, saying if Santa Monica doesn’t do something quick, they’re likely to see tiny units with unlivable costs. 

“I do support the prohibition of SRO housing citywide, Barton said. “In New York you can pay $2,500 for 365 square feet…so over time…tenants will pay the same amount to rent a studio where they used to be able to rent a one-bedroom.”

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