With a looming backlog of proposed projects headed to their desks over the next few years, the City Council will prioritize various planning initiatives at their Tuesday night public meeting,
“The identification of ambitious and laudable goals does not automatically produce results,” says the staff report by director David Martin. “It is critically important that planning be grounded in the capacity of City government and private real estate market forces and property owners to actually implement adopted policies.”
Here are the recommendations from Martin:
Pico Neighborhood Plan
At the top of the priority list for staff are the Pico Neighborhood Plan, implementing new CEQA guidelines from the state and updating the landmarks ordinance to remove ambiguous language. The Pico plan will address zoning issues to protect the neighborhood from gentrification and retain affordable housing. Martin says the bulk of the $150,000 program budget will be used to conduct multi-lingual outreach before developing zoning revisions. The revisions may include looking at the rules for combining residentially-zoned lots in the neighborhood and parking requirements.
The design process for Memorial Park will begin this year after being shelved while staff prioritized the newly completed Downtown Community Plan. Memorial Park will involve rezoning about 70 acres of formerly industrial land centered on the Expo Light Rail station at 17th Street and Colorado. Staff anticipates finishing the plan and environmental analysis sometime next year.
“Mansionization of Santa Monica”
Both the Council and the Planning Commission have requested further review of zoning standards for residential neighborhoods over concerns of the “mansionization” of Santa Monica. The earliest staff could review the standards is the second half of Fiscal Year 2018/19, although an interim ordinance could take a more surgical approach to addressing the issue.
“Staff has received complaints from neighborhood groups and individual residents expressing concern about the size of new homes,” the report said. “In nearly all cases, staff has found the new homes of concern to comply with existing zoning regulations for single-unit dwellings.”
Bergamot Area Zoning Updates
Martin says the development community has complained current zoning regulations do not give enough incentives to attract housing or commercial development to the Bergamot area and “uncertainty and project risk weigh heavily on larger projects.” Staff is proposing to revisit the zoning code in the first half of Fiscal Year 2018.
Prohibition on hotel to condo conversions
The Council has requested an ordinance to preserve existing hotels along the coast, after a Chinese real estate investment firm purchased the Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel on Ocean Avenue. The same firm, Anbang Insurance Group, owns the Waldorf Astoria in New York City and converted several floors of the hotel into private condominiums. The report says there has been no indication the firm is planning to convert the Loews in a similar fashion.
Staff is looking at a potential ordinance that would prohibit applicants from getting new permits while they have an outstanding Municipal Code violation to discourage bad actors.
Here is the list of big projects on the way:
Providence Saint John’s Health Center
The draft environmental review (EIR) is slated to be completed by the end of this year for the new medical campus. The development agreement may hit the Planning Commission’s desk by early 2019. The project includes a master plan process with a comprehensive review of circulation impacts, land use, parking and other development potential for the campuses located on Santa Monica Boulevard between 20 and 23 Streets.
Staff expects to receive revised plans for the Miramar early this year which will launch a review and negotiations over community benefits. The EIR could be available by mid-year 2019, with Planning Commission hearings in full swing by the end of that year. It will likely be 2020 before the plans reach City Council for final approval.
Plaza at 5th and Arizona
With the EIR scheduled to be finished in a few months, the Planning Commission could have their say on the public-private project by the end of the year. The EIR will explore eight project alternatives that include significantly different plans.
101 Santa Monica Boulevard
The developer behind a new proposed hotel on Ocean Avenue is scheduled to present the latest version of the project design on Jan. 11. The Architectural Review Board and Landmarks Commission will each get a look at the plans soon after that. Revised plans include 115 hotel rooms, 79 rental units (19 of which will be rent-controlled, and 18 affordable), ground-floor restaurant and retail space, a museum and a publicly-accessible roof-top observation deck.
The City Council will meet for closed session Jan. 9 at 5:30 p.m. in Council Chambers at City Hall, 1685 Main Street.