City Hall (File photo)

CITY HALL — The Santa Monica City Council waded through a packed agenda at their July 8 meeting covering a diverse group of topics.

The council took action on six items and heard information on an additional three. Several items up for discussion had been before the council before and were returning for final approval.

The council unanimously approved an interim ordinance modifying several zoning policies. The action was part of a much larger discussion related to an ongoing zoning update that will revise the Land Use and Circulation Element (LUCE) of the General Plan. Staff said major elements of the comprehensive zoning plan revision are currently open for public review and will be discussed at Planning Commission.

Also approved by a unanimous vote was an update to the city’s Industrial Wastewater Control Regulations. The update was first brought to the council in June and was prompted by recent changes at state and federal oversight agencies. The document was last updated in 1995 and the staff report said:

“The proposed revisions to the Industrial Wastewater Control Regulations are necessary to:

• Incorporate several updates to more closely align the city’s regulations with the City of Los Angeles Industrial Waste Control Ordinance.

• Comply with audits conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency which identify certain federal regulations be incorporated into the city’s ordinance.

• Comply with General Pretreatment Regulations that were amended by the EPA.”

A third ordinance, eliminating a fee waiver for seismic retrofit plan check and building permit fees was also approved. Staff said the waiver had decreased the General Fund and failed to prompt private owners to retrofit their buildings.

The first item of new business covered a development agreement for a new Mini dealership at 1402 Santa Monica Blvd.

According to the staff report, “The project involves the construction of a 33,400 square-foot, 35-feet-tall automobile dealership that would include a 6,144-square-foot sales floor and offices, 507-square-foot caf√©, 21 service bays, and 135 parking spaces within an enclosed surface parking area and a two-level subterranean parking garage. The proposed dealership would be constructed on a 22,500-square-foot site. The project site is located on the corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and 14th Street and was previously developed with a Union 76 service station. An environmental impact report (EIR) has been prepared that analyzed the project.”

The council approved the first reading of the development agreement. Councilwoman Gleam Davis praised the design of the building and said the project had the support of residents.

“I understand there was a fairly enthusiastic response to this project and seems from the overall tenor of the public comment tonight, people are supportive of the project,” she said.

Council approved a modification to the Mills Act program that reduces property taxes for owners of historically significant property. Staff had initially asked that the program be changed to include a limit on total losses the city could take but that recommendation was rejected by the Landmarks Commission and ultimately stripped from the final proposal. The amendments will “define additional eligibility requirements for program applicants and require that applicants articulate their intent for obtaining a contract and amending the application requirements to include a detailed work plan.”

The council had previously been asked to approve a new 20-year franchise agreement with Crimson California Pipeline L.P. The company operates a 10″ crude oil line within Santa Monica running along 26th Street, Colorado Avenue, Cloverfield Boulevard, Ocean Park Boulevard and 23rd Street. Council rejected the 20-year agreement and instead approved a 10-year agreement worth $83,085 at the July 8 meeting.

The ongoing conflict over closing Santa Monica Airport continued with council directing staff to prepare a ballot initiative that will preserve the city’s authority to manage the airport, allow the city to close all or part of the airport without voter approval, prohibit or restrict new development on the property and hopefully undermine an initiative by airport supporters.

Council also approved a second ballot initiative for the November election that would raise taxes on the sale of property to fund affordable housing. Council adopted two measures: the first sets the real estate transfer tax at $9 per $1,000 on the sale of property worth more than $1 million. The second measure asks voters to express a preference for the money raised by the increased tax to be set aside for affordable housing.

Councilmember Bob Holbrook voted against the tax increase. He criticized the measure as penalizing homeowners who did not have equity built up in their homes and as unfair for singling out a portion of the residents to bear the cost where past efforts have spread costs out among the city at large.

“This is a simple one, ask the people who don’t own property to vote a measure through so the people who do own property have to pay all the taxes,” he said. “It’s simple in Santa Monica where the majority of voters aren’t homeowners.”

Holbrook did vote in favor of setting aside any funds raised for affordable housing.

Council’s final action was another budget measure. Council approved a request from the Rent Control Board to ask voters to approve an amendment to the city charter that would establish a maximum annual registration fee of $288 per unit. Landlords have been able to pass on the entire fee to renters but the measure, if passed, would limit landlords to charging 50 percent of the fee.

According to the agenda, the council was supposed to make appointments to commissions however, Councilman Terry O’Day had to leave the meeting early and the council chose to postpone approval of appointments until they had all seven members present.

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