A trio of important meetings are coming up this week.
The City Council will review and make recommendations on the proposed Downtown Specific Plan (DSP) and related Program Environmental Impact Report (PEIR) at Tuesday night’s meeting. Issues such as heights, densities and opportunity sites will be discussed and are subject to direction from the council.
The DSP will meet specific goals in the Land Use and Circulation Element (LUCE) which calls for “a thriving, mixed-use urban environment that provides multiple opportunities for living, working, entertainment and enrichment.” Because LUCE set the tone for design, land use and traffic planning efforts over the next 25 to 30 years, the DSP must be consistent with those parameters.
City staff began working on the DSP in 2011. Since then, there have been numerous community meetings involving stakeholders, the public, Downtown property owners, developers and businesses. This resulted in concepts to assure that the final DSP will support positive economic health, reduce new vehicle (car) trips, preserve the city’s unique character and historic assets, follow good sustainability practices and better interconnect Downtown the Civic Center, the Santa Monica Pier and the beach.
The DSP will determine revised Downtown development standards including the establishment of varying height limits, density and floor area ratios. One recommendation is to allow higher (84 feet) heights and greater floor area ratios on some blocks.
Another recommendation is for a 135-foot maximum height limit at eight “opportunity sites.” The council is expected to review options for developments already in the pipeline such as the new Wyndham, the Frank Gehry-designed hotel and the renovated Miramar — all along Ocean Avenue.
These flagship developments offering “extraordinary site-specific community benefits” may be able to bypass any newly established height and density standards if the developer files for an amendment to the final DSP and conducts its own environmental analysis as called for by state law.
Public reaction to many aspects of the proposed DSP have already been negative. Opposition is centered around complaints about making it too easy to develop high-rises, worries about more traffic congestion and concerns that Downtown is becoming another Disneyland for tourists offering less for residents.
Following the council’s direction, staff will conduct additional community outreach, continue work required by the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and return to the Planning Commission and City Council with a draft DSP down the road.
On Wednesday evening, July 10, the Planning Commission will review the final draft of the Bergamot Area Plan, which contains the goals, policies and regulations that will guide all future investment within that neighborhood’s boundaries. “The plan will guide the area’s transition to a mixed-use, pedestrian-oriented neighborhood focused on connectivity with the future Exposition (Expo) Light Rail station and the Bergamot Art Center,” reads the staff report for the meeting.
Because the commission will be making recommendations to the City Council you all should show up to observe and comment. Decisions made will affect substantial parts of the city regarding traffic congestion and development standards. And, if anyone says that Expo Rail will cure the traffic problems, ask them what they’ve been smoking.
The Rent Control Board meets Thursday night. July 11. They’re set to vote on developer Marc Luzzatto’s application to remove the 99 rental spaces — or mobile home pads — from his Village Trailer Park (VTP) at 2930 Colorado Ave.
Luzzatto hopes to replace the funky, old trailer park with the East Village, a dense, mixed-use/housing project. The last hurdle he must overcome before East Village becomes a reality is getting permission to remove the pads from the city’s housing inventory.
On April 9, the City Council gave their final approval to a revised development agreement that allows Luzzatto to construct 377 units of “all rental” housing. In the final plan, the affordable units on site jumped from the 16 units in the previous plan to 38 units including three “extremely low-income units.” Luzzatto must also keep 10 trailer pads for 10 years, then he can develop the space as more multi-family housing.
Most of you know how much I despise this development. And, while folks may carp and complain about three proposed hotel high-rises along Ocean Avenue, this “future slum” will have a much more deleterious effect on the community. Talk about getting the cart before the horse. Take note that this major development was proposed, amended and “OK’d” far before the official area plan for the Bergamot area was finished.
Unfortunately, the pro-development majority on the council has backed another bad development in return for a few extra units of affordable housing. For the record, Gleam Davis, Bob Holbrook, Terry O’Day and Pam O’Connor supported this mess. Luzzatto got off cheap and the rest of us got the shaft.
There was quibbling about details such as “how much extremely low vs. low income housing” and “community benefits,” nevertheless this pig finished up as it always was: fat, ugly and sassy.
Many Santa Monicans, including the handful of VTP residents still living at the park, are hopeful that the Rent Control Board will deny the removal permit. While City Hall staff and politicians alike talked about “listening to the people,” this was a done deal from the get-go. I’m betting the family Prius that the Rent Control Board won’t derail the train.
The only way to avoid huge mistakes like this in the future is to replace a couple of council members in next year’s election.
Bill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.