CITY HALL — The City Council Tuesday night approved a list of priorities to determine which of dozens of developments in the planning queue would get the first look, with affordable housing and unit mix topping the list.
That was followed by a project’s money-making potential and connection to local educational institutions.
The item came in the face of a glut of development agreement applications, with Santa Monica city planners currently juggling more than 30. Development agreements are requests for contracts with City Hall to allow a developer to build outside the normal zoning rules in exchange for perks for the community, like child care centers or improved infrastructure.
City planners informed the council late last year that the number of applications for developments, particularly in Downtown, was too high and they were having difficulty dealing with them all, calling on elected officials to put in a new process to slow things down.
To win priority status under the affordable housing and unit mix categories discussed Tuesday, developments would have to meet specific conditions, including 15 percent very low-income units and 5 percent moderate-income units.
Under the unit mix, only 20 percent of the units could be studio apartments and at least 20 percent would need to be two-bedroom units. At least 10 percent would have to have three bedrooms.
Council members were split on the concepts of mandated unit sizes, which brought protests from the land use attorney and architect communities who were concerned that specific sizes would cut down on both efficiency and creativity, and might also result in more expensive units.
Councilmember Gleam Davis expressed concern about the “one-size-fits-all” approach, particularly as it came to setting minimum unit sizes. Also, there were some kinds of projects that might be excluded from the approval list that could be a council priority, like cultural institutions.
“There has to be some flexibility, we can’t address every kind of project,” Davis said.
The list only identifies projects that will be considered first, and doesn’t mean that other projects that don’t fall within the guidelines will be rejected, said Councilmember Kevin McKeown.
“We’re not deciding what gets built, we’re deciding what gets built first,” he said.