Santa Monica City Council approves temporary zoning changes for Promenade
By Dolores Quintana and Sam Catanzaro
Hotels and liquor stores are among the new types of businesses allowed to operate on the Third Street Promenade.
At the September 28 Santa Monica City Council meeting, lawmakers approved an Emergency Interim Zoning Ordinance intended to make it easier for a large range of businesses to operate on the Third Street Promenade. The iconic shopping area has faced immense challenges in recent years with high vacancy rates, which have been exacerbated by the pandemic. Downtown Santa Monica Inc.– the non-profit organization responsible for the management of the Promenade–has formulated the Third Street Promenade Stabilization and Economic Vitality Plan intended to address these challenges.
The plan intends to refresh the look and feel of The Promenade and in effort to make it a more diverse marketplace with expanded retail and dining opportunities in an effort to to open the area up to smaller and more eclectic businesses rather than larger retail chains.
“The Third Street Promenade is an iconic public street and gathering place meant for all to enjoy, and it will be an important component of our economic recovery,” said Mayor Sue Himmelrich. “In these three blocks, we can creatively adapt both the retail and public spaces for new uses, tenants, and experiences that are a magnet for our local residents and a draw for the region as well.”
The IZO passed September 28, which will remain in effect until December, 2022, looks to achieve this goal by increasing foot traffic and opening up retail spaces that are lower in rent to attract many more businesses. Some of the new businesses that will be allowed are pet stores and veterinary services, tattoo and body modification parlors, medical and dental offices as well as hotels and liquor stores. In addition, officials spoke about extending the hours of road closure on the Arizona Avenue space where the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market takes place in the evening on Saturday nights to open a ‘Night Market’. There would also be an easing of codes like the FAR or Floor Area Ratio calculation to allow for use of rooftop spaces.
Some Councilmembers objected to allowing liquor stores, including Councilmeber Phil Brock.
“I don’t understand how that’s a desired use on the Third Street Promenade now, in the past or in the future,” Brock said.
Councilmember Laura Negrete during the meeting addressed the number of objections to tattoo parlors potentially being allowed in the area.
“Tattoos are pretty expensive. I have them. They’re an art form and you would be surprised who has them these days. We happen to have a tattoo artist, who is well known in the community, doing tattoos that I know I can’t afford to get from him. But the clientele that he brings, beyond just the celebrity clientele, are the people you are looking [for] to open up the space,” Negrete said.
In addition, the new plan allows for: streamline permitting of existing land uses by minimizing applicability of Conditional Use Permits (CUPs), Minor Use Permits (MUPs) and other discretionary approvals; reduces minimum active ground floor depth requirement from 50 feet to 25 feet from Promenade property line; Permit direct access to upper floors and rear ground floor office uses from the Promenade.
Another element of the Plan is to increase the number of community events, programs, and activations in downtown public spaces. To achieve this, the Council authorized the City Manager to negotiate with DTSM, Inc. on frequency of use of space, permit fees, revenue share opportunities for use of Lot 27 and Arizona Avenue, and Promenade vending program.
In the public comment, there was a fair amount of concern regarding people who are experiencing homelessness also negatively impacting the area. The City Council meeting came the day after Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva heavily criticized City leaders’ plans to combat homelessness on and around the Promenade at an open house.
“I guarantee you there are probably city level ordinances that prohibit certain activities, yet they are not being enforced by orders of the city leadership,” Villanueva said at the meeting, organized by Promenade property owner John Alle. Also in attendance at the open house was Lt. Geoffrey Deedrick of the Sheriff’s Homeless Outreach Service Team (HOST), Pastor Ron Hooks and Santa Monica City Councilmembers Phil Brock and Oscar de la Torre.
“It’s really simple: we need a clean, safe downtown Santa Monica from the Promenade to the parking garages,” Brock said during the open house. “Our city government in some cases has abdicated their responsibility to keep this area safe and clean.”