City Council has given preliminary approval to the Downtown Community Plan with instructions to bring a final version of the document for approval on July 25.

The council made a series of unanimous votes at the end of a six hour meeting to advance the plan with several revisions.

Council kept a trio of opportunity sites earmarked for larger development, maintained ground level commercial use in the downtown area and streamlined housing development up to 75,000 feet.

Staff was also asked to alter traffic patterns at Arizona, create additional protected bike lanes, look for a way to include a dog park downtown, equalize density requirements between areas of downtown, streamline all 100 percent affordable housing projects, eliminate parking minimums and mandate affordable housing on a project by project basis.

Santa Monica already has laws in place that mandate 30 percent of the total housing approved each year must be affordable. However, that rule does not require every project to produce affordable housing and the totals can be met with deed-restricted 100 percent affordable projects offsetting private market rate projects.

The DCP will require every housing project to contain between 20-30 percent affordable units on site depending on the overall size. Those requirements increase to 25 – 35 percent if the housing is built offsite.

Council asked for staff to come back on July 25 with specific information on a set of topics including standards related to a project at 201 Wilshire, ways to accommodate existing downtown nonprofit organizations who want to modify their sites and strategies for incentivizing low-cost hotels.

The most significant discussion occurred around plans to increase housing construction in the Downtown area. Staff had proposed housing developments of up to 60,000 square feet should be approved through administrative channels with limited hearings at the Planning Commission or Architectural Review Board. The Planning Commission had recommended increasing that threshold to 90,000 square feet and the council debated several options for incentivizing housing over commercial projects before settling on a 75,000 square foot limit for fast tracked housing projects.

“I’m pleased that after robust  but civil dialogue on some key issues the Council unanimously endorsed the final revised DCP,” said Mayor Ted Winterer

Councilwoman Gleam Davis said the DCP accomplishes the Council’s goals

“Overall, I think that the DCP is a forward-looking blue print for building out a modern urban core that preserves and protects the things that make downtown such a vibrant part of our community,” she said. “It recognizes the vital role that downtown plays in our economic success and our civic identity.  The council took some concrete steps that will reduce traffic in downtown as well as better allocate existing parking resources.  We also reaffirmed our commitment to make sure that our downtown reflects our city’s interest in the arts and artists.  I am anxious to see if the steps that we have taken to encourage the building of housing–both market-rate and affordable–are successful.  I certainly hope that they are.”

A final version of the document will return to Council for a vote on July 25.

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