Santa Monica City Hall (File photo)

Editor’s note: This is the fourth in a series of articles previewing City Council’s reviewing of the Zoning Ordinance Update. The articles will focus on the issues that city officials have deemed heavily discussed.

Listening to tonight’s discussion of the proposed Zoning Ordinance will probably be like watching paint dry — if the dried paint was going to have massive impacts on the way that Santa Monica is shaped.

The Planning Commission considered the Zoning Ordinance, which will dictate land uses throughout the city for years to come, for months over the course of dozens of meetings. Council gets its first crack at the ordinance this week and may finalize it in May. Public comment is expected to be long (also: repetitive, boring, important) so city officials have scheduled a second meeting for Wednesday, when council will discuss the ordinance after a night’s sleep.

City planners have highlighted 14 issues that were most commonly discussed at the Planning Commission phase of the ordinance. The Daily Press has written about nine of them over the past few days.

Community benefits

Developers of projects that are a little taller or denser — but not tall or dense enough to trigger a requirement of council or commission approval — have to give the city some things in return for their size.

“The proposed community benefits system would be based upon an increase in on-site and off-site affordable housing, an increase above the adopted fees for certain development impact fees, and augmented TDM (traffic demand management) requirements,” city officials said in a report to council.

Affordable units have to be for households at 30, 50, or 80 percent of the median income. Off-site affordable housing has to be run by a nonprofit. Developers of these projects would no longer be allowed to simply pay a fee into an affordable housing fund to satisfy their requirement.

Restoring non-conforming uses

Let’s say you’ve got a building that was a dentist office back in the day but recently it’s lain dormant and the area has been re-zoned for residential buildings. Under the current code, you couldn’t return the building to its original intent.

Preservationists are almost always fans of adaptive reuse or the reuse of a structure for its original intent.

For this reason, council will consider allowing these non-conforming uses to be returned in certain instances.

“An exception was added to the Draft Zoning Ordinance that would allow a non-conforming use of a City-Designated Historic Resource to be resumed, reestablished, or reopened with the approval of a Conditional Use Permit, even after the one-year timeframe has elapsed, subject to specific findings,” city officials said.

But will this give landowners the right to oust residents from old buildings that were previously offices or retail establishments?

“In order to protect existing residential uses,” city officials said, “the non-conforming use could not be resumed, reestablished, or reopened if the property was in residential use as of December 16, 2014.”

Offices on the boulevards

In order to promote pedestrian-oriented boulevards and mitigate parking and traffic impacts from medical offices, “all new medical and dental offices, general offices, and creative offices, in newly constructed buildings within the commercial and mixed-use corridor districts,” have to get special permits issued by the Planning Commission or council under the proposed ordinance.

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