CITY HALL — Wrapping up the six-year process of updating Santa Monica’s general plan with a marathon final meeting Tuesday night, the City Council unanimously approved the Land Use and Circulation Element (LUCE), agreeing to a framework that will guide development for the next 20 years.

Though recent hearings on the document have resulted in some significant changes to the plan — most notably, higher maximum building heights in most parts of the city — its broad outline has been clear for some time.

The LUCE envisions growth along Santa Monica’s major boulevards and in formerly industrial areas on the east side of town. It seeks to protect existing neighborhoods from redevelopment by providing incentives for developers to build housing in other city zones.

It seeks to enliven commercial streets and cut down on vehicle trips by encouraging mixed-use projects with ground-floor shops and apartments on the upper floors. New commercial projects are mainly to be located near public transit hubs like the future Expo Light Rail stop at Bergamot Station.

The main objectives of the plan were non-controversial, with council members, the Chamber of Commerce, neighborhood groups and leaders of Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights are all in agreement about major components of the LUCE.

When, at 12:30 a.m. Wednesday, the final roll call vote to approve the document was complete, those who remained in the audience at City Hall applauded the accomplishment.

Planning Director Eileen Fogarty won special praise from members of the council for spearheading what amounted to a massive planning effort involving scores of public hearings and input from thousands of people.

Not everyone, though, was in a celebratory mood.

Though he supported the plan, saying it contained “more consensus than it does compromise,” Councilman Kevin McKeown added he was “aghast” that the new general plan for Santa Monica includes higher building height limits in some areas than the previous, much maligned, 1984 version of the general plan.

Mayor Bobby Shriver said he found it “extremely difficult to vote for” the LUCE because a financial analysis of its impacts that a consultant had been directed to prepare was turned in only hours before the final votes on the plan, and in “shoddy shape.”

During several hours of testimony and discussion on the document Tuesday night, the council made final adjustments to the LUCE, giving low-income housing developers additional flexibility to incorporate smaller ground-floor spaces into their projects and strengthening language expressing support for residents of the Village Trailer Park, who are facing eviction, among other changes — all of them deemed too minor to require further environmental study of the plan’s impacts.

“I’m really happy and pleased,” said Mayor Pro Tem Pam O’Connor. “We haven’t all gotten exactly what we wanted, but overall I think it’s a document that will serve us well.”

The City Council and Planning Commission will next begin work on updating Santa Monica’s zoning code, which places more specific rules on development.

nickt@www.smdp.com

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