Did the completion of the LUCE and zoning update leave you with too much free time in your week? Is your Santa Monica experience lacking opportunities to talk about development and complain about traffic? Are you desperately seeking more civic meetings that run past 10 p.m.? If so, rejoice because public hearings have begun on the Downtown Specific Plan.
The DSP is a zoning document that covers about a half square mile bordered by Wilshire and Lincoln boulevards, the Interstate 10 freeway and Ocean Avenue. Specialized zoning rules for the area are up for discussion because while the recently updated zoning code and Land Use and Circulation Element altered zoning rules citywide, Downtown was specifically excluded from those rules to allow for more a more specialized approach.
During a recent discussion of proposed development, City Council put most downtown proposals on hold pending adoption of the DSP specifically to allow staff to focus on drafting the document and to create a level playing field for everyone involved.
The Planning Commission held its first hearing on the DSP on Nov. 3. The study session was an opportunity for the commission to begin refining the document and hear public input on the plan.
As the plan was presented in draft form, with specific room for improvement and discussion, few speakers outright opposed the plan. However, there was a diversity of opinions as to what the plan should accomplish, including pro- and anti-development arguments.
Resident concerns raised during the meeting ranged from broad philosophical concerns to comments on specific parcels. Residents talked about the plan’s impact on schools, rehabilitation of Lincoln Boulevard, local retail, creation of housing, hotel development, parking, sustainability, open space and public transit.
The plan is a dense document and will be subject to at least one additional hearing before the commission.
“What has become clear is that there are 350 pages of tightly written material with a series of intricate concepts that deal with this great city that we all living in and rushing it would do no service to the city or the plan,” Chair Richard McKinnon said in opening the meeting.
Several commissioners addressed the sheer size of the plan.
Commissioner Nina Fresco said the plan was too large.
“I feel like a crisp, tight document is a much more transparent document and a document that leads us to what we want and I think it’s really possible,” she said. “There’s a lot of redundancy.”
Commissioner Mario Fonda-Bonardi said simplification should be a goal of the process and the final document should make it simple for anyone, whether they are a developer, resident or tourist, to understand the rules for Downtown.
In acknowledging the state of the document, Commissioner Jason Parry said there would be additional opportunities for input.
Commissioner Jennifer Kennedy said her goal for the plan is to create a neighborhood. “I’m hoping that what we can get out of this is creating a plan that will demonstrate the Downtown is not just a place to visit, but that it’s a place to be,” she said.
Commissioner Amy Anderson described the plan as an opportunity for Santa Monica to become a regional model in adjusting land use and development standards and incorporating public transit.
For McKinnon, the plan will create security for everyone involved when it comes to development. He said it is important to create standards that are clear to everyone and doing so will alleviate the agitation caused by uncertainty.
“There needs to be certainty about what can and cannot be built in our downtown,” he said.
The Planning Commission continued its Tuesday meeting to Wednesday night.
Input from the commission will be incorporated into the document and will result in a “redline” version to be presented at a future meeting.