The long overdue update to

Santa Monica’s master plan, the Land Use and Circulation Element, is nearing completion and undergoing public review prior to final City Council comments, revisions and approval.

LUCE is the framework for determining the size, amount of and types of development in the city’s future as well as its traffic circulation over the next 30 years. The scope and locations for new growth are all outlined in LUCE.

Many factions are jostling to have their own ideas represented in LUCE. The powerful Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights organization supports residential development over new commercial and office development, for example.

Neighborhood groups want to preserve existing neighborhoods and minimal growth. Business interests including the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce want development standards that encourage positive economic development and a “friendly” business climate.

Over the last few weeks, a flurry of letters advocating for greater flexibility in LUCE’s framework from land-use attorney Chris Harding (as the co-chair of the chamber’s LUCE subcommittee) have been sent to City Hall department heads, Planning Commissioners and City Councilpersons.

Harding is a partner in Harding, Larmore, Kutcher & Kozall, LLP, a law firm that represents a number of real estate interests and developers with numerous present and pending projects in the city. Harding’s May 5 letter suggests a number of changes to LUCE such as higher building heights and densities than recommended in the draft LUCE.

In a letter to the Planning Commission, the Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City and a number of neighborhood organizations accused Harding and the chamber of derailing LUCE by inserting a lengthy list of development-friendly recommendations into the plan at the 11th hour and near to its completion.

Harding dismissed their criticism by saying the chamber’s LUCE subcommittee’s recommendations were “focusing on technical points of the LUCE and don’t significantly change its vision." Changes are geared toward facilitating better building design and making smart development more practical, he added. But, in a letter dated May 17, Harding describes the recommendations as “… fundamental to the draft LUCE." “Technical points” or “fundamental changes?” Which is it?

Last Monday, commissioner Ted Winterer e-mailed me that the Planning Commission “voted four to two for additional height recommendations on most boulevards and districts." With the exception of Winterer and Jay Johnson, commissioners Gerda Newbold, Jason Parry, Gwynne Pugh and Vice-Chair Jim Ries voted to raise the height limits. Chair Hank Koning was absent. I’m sure Harding’s clients are happy he “brought home the bacon” even though nobody else is.

“For instance, the (previous 75-foot) maximum height allowed at Bergamot is now 81 feet (hard to say as the numbers were not published in advance and instead concocted on scratch paper after 11 p.m. — unbelievable). Coincidentally or not, it’s the same height as the PaperMate proposal,” Winterer e-mailed.

Connecting the dots — Hines, the Texas developer behind the 969,000-square-foot Bergamot Transit Village mega-development proposed for the PaperMate property at 26th Street and Olympic Boulevard is Chris Harding’s and HLKK’s client.

Measure A fails<p>

Measure A, the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District’s $198 parcel tax proposal failed to garner the necessary two-thirds or 66.66 percent needed for passage. With virtually all ballots counted Friday, May 28, the measure only received 64.25 percent while the “no votes” pulled 35.75 percent.

The district spent more than $200,000 for last week’s special mail-in election — above the $160,000 cost for inclusion on the June primary ballot. The “yes” campaign raised $372,557 as of May 11 according to campaign disclosure statements. “A’s total cost was close to $600,000. The campaign spent about $42 each for its 13,671 yes votes. The “no” folks only spent $31 for a website and domain name.

The tragedy is that a fortune in “yes” money was spent on mailers, campaign coordinators and postage — not in the classroom. It’s another sign of the misdirection and dysfunctionality within our public school system — including the SMMUSD itself and extending to its well-intentioned supporters.

Measure A’s backers noted they would have had a landslide victory if only a “50-percent, plus-one” vote were needed to pass. "No on A” supporters say that if they had a fraction of the budget spent by the “yes” committee to get their message out, the measure would have fallen considerably short of even a simple majority.

There’s talk of floating another parcel tax in November. Let me repeat myself: What is needed is total reform from the school board down, not more taxes. The first place I’d start is by removing the teachers union president from the district payroll.

ACLU homeless suit down in flames<p>

A Southern California ACLU lawsuit against City Hall and the Santa Monica Police Department filed last July on behalf of six homeless individuals has been dismissed. I’ll have a more detailed commentary about the ACLU’s misguided blunder after a joint City Hall statement and press release scheduled for release Monday, June 8.

Bill can be reached at mr.bilbau@gmail.com