CITYWIDE – Planes, trains, and the zoning code will likely be the dominant issues of 2015.
The year after a highly contested, low-turnout election will likely be a big one for Santa Monica.
A key agreement between the Federal Aviation Administration and City Hall expires on July 1, giving the latter more control of the Santa Monica Airport land.
Most notably, City Hall will regain control of a 20-acre parcel on the west end of the airport.
Council voted in early 2014 to have city officials consider shuttering that portion of the airport, shortening the runway and making it less attractive to pilots. Many aviation advocates said that making the runway smaller would also make it less safe.
City officials are also considering restricting or prohibiting the sale of aviation fuel (citing safety concerns) and the allowance of aviation tenants on airport land.
Santa Monica Airport Commissioners have noted that these actions could make the airport less attractive or infeasible for pilots, effectively strangling it through declining use.
Whatever council decides, lawsuits are all but guaranteed.
Even if the train doesn’t open to the public in 2015, the incoming Expo Light Rail will color many decisions this year. It’s scheduled to serve Santa Monica starting in early 2016 but many have noted that construction is ahead of schedule.
Housing and hotel projects are going in all around the three stations. Rents – the ones not restricted by rent control – are rising. City officials are working to connect the stations to the surrounding transportation systems and cut down on the traffic that’s been first on the minds of most Santa Monicans in recent years.
Zoning Code update
The Planning Commission is wrestling with a document, more than 500 pages long, that will dictate land use in the city for years to come. The language is dense but it deals with everything from development standards to the allowance of marijuana dispensaries and tattoo parlors.
City Council will have the final input on the Zoning Ordinance. Council is expected to discuss the ordinance this year.
New City Manager
Rod Gould took the city’s top job just after the onset of the great recession and announced that he’d leave his post as City Manager later this month.
Current Assistant City Manager Elaine Polachek will take the reins until a new manager is found.
The city manager steers the city and they usually hold the job for at least five years.
The competition for Santa Monica’s top job is expected to be steep.
Since 1994, more than a third of all new housing in Santa Monica has been set aside as affordable.
Now the future is shaky for affordable housing in the city by the sea.
First, thanks to the dissolution of the redevelopment agency a few years ago, funding has dried up.
But perhaps more notable is what may be a shift in perception surrounding affordable housing. A measure put forward to fund affordable housing – it would have raised taxed on the sale of million dollar properties – failed dramatically at the polls in November. A companion measure – which was contingent on the passage of the first measure and therefore officially irrelevant – simply asked voters if the money should be set aside for affordable housing. It barely passed.