By Lea Yamashiro
Daily Press Intern
After hundreds of meetings spread across several years, Santa Monica updated its Zoning Ordinance in 2015. But apparently a planner’s work is never done, and officials are returning to the issue this year to refine, revise and correct a list of pending problems.
City Hall began the revision process earlier this year with City Council passing a package of corrections and revisions that amounted to clerical or administrative fixes. At that time, the council identified items that could have policy impacts and asked for additional study at the Planning Commission level.
The group of about 46 specific topics was presented to the Planning Commission and will return in the coming months for specific action and discussion.
The commission broke the list into several groups based on the ranges of difficulty and complication. The first group would include minor changes, corrections, and clarifications, the second would include topics that have come about since the implementation of the Zoning Ordinance that need further review, and the third bucket would hold issues and topics that the Planning Commission needed to stow away for future, more in-depth discussions.
The first 17 items will come back for discussion or passage in about eight weeks. Those items include clarifying that dimensions for garages refer to interior measurements, allowing tandem parking for single-unit dwellings or allowing city government uses in any district subject to a Conditional Use Permit. The topics have all had some kind of previous discussion at the commission level and are expected to be less complicated to implement.
The next batch will come before the commission on a rolling basis starting in November.
Those items will be repackaged to keep items of a similar type in a single discussion and to incorporate feedback from the public, commission and council.
Despite the pre-written list, commissioners and the public asked for some additional items to be added to the list.
Commissioner Nina Fresco asked for additional information on what she said are inconsistencies and other policy issues.
“We’ve talked a lot about second units already today, just this imbalance between whether or not you can convert a garage but you can’t convert a rec room, and what that all means for allowing this kind of housing and protecting people’s privacy and quiet and preventing urbanization of neighborhoods, while so doing, so that seems like a big policy issues for you guys to prepare for us,” she said.
Danilo Bach, who lives in the North of Montana area, voiced some frustration with the overdevelopment of his own neighborhood, and urged the commission to focus on decision-making from the perspective of neighborhood benefits and effects.
“There is a danger certainly in the NOMA area, we are seeing, in a sense, a gaming of the system-the zoning system-with these extraordinary large buildings, these houses being built,” he said. “It’s like the return of the mega-mansions on steroids. There are several vivid examples in the neighborhood now under construction in which several people have come up to me and said, ‘What the heck is going on in that lot?’”
Mario Fonda-Bonardi said the city should examine parking rules for small cars.
“We should, as a progressive zoning code, start looking at where in our code does the micro car fit? Because we are now having cars that are very small that don’t deserve even the compact park space that might allow us to bend parking requirements much more gracefully than we currently are,” he said.
The complete list of proposed revisions is available on the commission’s website as part of the Aug. 3 agenda packet.
The Planning Commission meets on the first and third Wednesdays of each month at 7 p.m. in the City Council chambers of City Hall, 1685 Main St.
Daily Press Editor Matthew Hall contributed to this report.