CITY HALL — The City Council delighted environmental activists Tuesday when it embraced the idea of codifying the rights of people, natural communities and ecosystems to exist in and be protected by local law.

Council members passed a resolution that advances the Sustainability Bill of Rights, a document drafted by the Santa Monica Task Force on the Environment that calls on city officials to recognize the rights of natural organisms and communities to “exist, regenerate and flourish” and gives individuals the ability to sue to protect those rights.

It calls out clean water, sustainable energy, a climate unaltered by fossil fuel emissions, waste disposal systems that do not degrade the environment, a sustainable food system and clean air, water and soil as things to which Santa Monicans have a right.

It also commits City Hall to specific goals and dates to fulfill commitments made in the Sustainable City Plan, which officials originally adopted in 1994.

Council members hailed the plan as bold, and passed the resolution unanimously. It will be brought back as an ordinance for another vote at a later date.

The resolution is the first of a series of steps to make the Sustainability Bill of Rights a reality in Santa Monica, said Mark Gold, chair of the task force.

He and other members of the task force wanted to move the idea forward as an ordinance tonight, but felt that pushing it forward too quickly might endanger the concept’s viability.

“Me, someone not known for my patience, ever, decided that such an important move — a change for Santa Monica and beyond Santa Monica and an example of how we could be dealing with environmental issues — should move forward with this approach, ” Gold said.

Council members voted down a second resolution in the same item to support a grassroots campaign’s efforts to call for an amendment to the national constitution to establish that corporations do not have the same rights as individuals. 

Mayor Richard Bloom, Mayor Pro Tem Gleam Davis and Councilmember Bobby Shriver all lined up against the resolution, citing concerns that it reached too far and could have unintended consequences.

All supported a substitute motion which expressed the concern of the City Council with the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in the case Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission, which allowed unlimited corporate donations in elections.

Development agreements

All 12 developments governed under special agreements with City Hall are meeting their obligations under those contracts, staff reported.

Staff presented a report to council summarizing its review of 20 projects either built, under construction or waiting to be built under development agreements, special agreements between developers and City Hall that allow developers to exceed certain zoning requirements like height and density limits in exchange for benefits to the community.

Of the 20 agreements in Santa Monica, 12 developments have been built and all are fully in compliance with the terms of their agreements.

At least two of those agreements, those for Yahoo! Center and St. John’s Health Center, were altered within the last year.

Landmarks

Council members upheld the decision of the Landmarks Commission to designate a home in the Ocean Park neighborhood as a city landmark.

The home, on the 2500 block of Second Street, consists of two cottages. The commission felt that the front cottage was a physical representation of the history of the city, embodied architectural characteristics specific to the time and place that it was built and is on a highly visible corner in the Ocean Park neighborhood with other early 20th century buildings. 

The appellant, Plaster Family Trust, held that the home was in poor repair and could not be fixed without rebuilding it, effectively destroying the historic elements of the place.

Land use attorney Chris Harding, who represented the trust, also said that to restore the home would be prohibitively expensive.

The City Council backed up the Landmarks Commission on a four to three vote with councilmembers Pam O’Connor, O’Day and Holbrook against.

(More to come in future editions of the Daily Press.)

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