Today marks the beginning of the end for much-discussed Zoning Ordinance Update at Planning Commission.

Within the coming few weeks, the commission will finish its review of the Redline Draft and pass the process to City Council. Officials hope to have the entire process, including review and adoption of the Zoning Ordinance Update, Official Districting Map, and LUCE and LUCE Land Use Map amendments finished by June of this year.

Officials said the window for public input at the commission level is closing.

“If residents have a medium-sized or big idea that’s new, this is the time,” said Commission Chair Jason Parry.

Santa Monica’s master zoning code has expired and development within the City is being governed by specific development agreements that provide unique restrictions/guidelines on a per-project basis. The City has an interim zoning regulation that stipulates legal restrictions on development and the Land Use Circulation Element (LUCE) that expresses the desires of the community. In some cases, the two are in conflict and an update to the zoning code is needed to reconcile the differences.

Planning Commission hearings on the Zoning Ordinance Update began in 2013 and continued through October 2014 with 20 Planning Commission hearings on the draft Zoning Ordinance Update and related documents.

An edited document, containing revisions generated by public comment, the commission and staff, has been under review for several months.
So far, each Commission meeting has had specific topics of discussion including:

Family Day Care and Day Care Centers, Transitional and Supportive Housing, Licensed Group Home Facilities, Multi-Unit Residential Standards, ‘A’ Off-Street Parking Overlay District, Residential Mobile Home Park and Beach Overlay Districts, Number of Stories for Tier 2 Projects in MUB, Upper-Story Stepback, Commercial Tenant Spaces Along Boulevards, Medical and Dental Offices, Housing in the Industrial Conservation and Office Campus Districts.

The Feb. 25 meeting will be the tenth and will cover the recommendations and conclusions reached during the prior nine meetings. The Commission will hear public testimony and provide comments and preliminary recommendations to staff. There will be at least one more meeting on the topic before final adoption of the Commission’s recommendations.

“There are a number of steps that we’re going to have to go through and that can’t all happen at the same time,” said Parry.

He said their goal is to draft a formal resolution that summarizes all the changes to the document and bring that resolution back for discussion one more time.

“The earliest that we would consider final action on the zoning ordinance is next week,” he said.

Concurrent to, but separate from, the zoning update discussions are recommendations to update the LUCE.

At their Feb. 25 meeting, the Planning Commission will also consider adopting a Resolution of Intention authorizing public hearings to consider recommending to the City Council that it amend specified provisions of the LUCE allowing greater height, number of stories, and modified processing for parcels containing historic resources.

“This Resolution of Intention represents the formal commencement of the process to consider recommending to the City Council that the City Council amend specified provisions of the LUCE,” says the staff report. “This resolution does not represent any specific recommendations by staff or predict any final decisions by the Planning Commission. Instead this resolution signifies the beginning of the formal process by which the Planning Commission will review the proposed changes the LUCE before making any formal recommendations to the City Council.”

Parry said the LUCE discussion will be ongoing for a few more weeks.

“We are looking at possibly recommending to council the LUCE amendments in certain areas. Those steps require a series of resolutions, some of which have already been started,” he said. “It will be at least two more meetings after this week to amend the LUCE.”

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Matthew Hall

Matthew Hall has a Masters Degree in International Journalism from City University in London and has been Editor-in-Chief of SMDP since 2014. Prior to working at SMDP he managed a chain of weekly papers...

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