You are all probably as sick to death with all the zoning code updates as I am. It’s all a lot of boring minutiae, but a wrong word in a new code — let alone in hundreds of new codes — could have huge impacts on the city’s future.
Definitions of transit hubs, historical properties, the addition of an extra three foot height allowance here and there just to name a few will add up to larger structures, more valuable properties and increased development desirability. Traffic, parking and all those problems we’ve been kvetching about for decades will worsen.
How about code revisions, in one form or another, that permit walls of new apartment buildings along major thoroughfares blocking views, light and air from nearby homes?
But, during the update discussions, Councilwoman Pam O’Connor insisted on higher and denser standards so more affordable housing can be produced for people who want to live here. She referred to removing larger Tier 3 developments from Wilshire Boulevard as the “the rich get richer” zoning code because developers wouldn’t find it feasible to include low-income units in their projects without more generous Tier 3 standards and “community benefits” bonuses.
Then, Councilman Tony Vazquez chimed in with this zinger on affordable housing projects: “All the housing we have been building this day is for the rich! ” Really, Tony? You’re not serious?
Two councilpersons are now blaming selfish, wealthy, single family homeowners for interfering with City Council’s out-of-control, social engineering agenda. Just one question? Who do Vazquez and O’Connor — and Terry O’Day and Gleam Davis who also supported the more generous development standards — represent? People who want to live here or residents who pay taxes and vote?
The more naive housing/development advocates seem to think that building more and more housing will drive rents down and result in them being more able to afford an apartment in “Paradise-by-the-Pacific.” Why would a developer build housing that would rent for anything less than “top dollar?” Because you want to live in Santa Monica and are financially challenged these days? Or, you are 25-years-old, cute and ride a bicycle? Economics doesn’t work that way, so dream on.
“More housing” is the number one city priority as well as that of the all-powerful Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights political organization which exerts a commanding influence on virtually every city politician. “Santa Monica isn’t doing enough,” they say. But, are we obligated to provide apartments for everyone who wants to live by the beach? If so, what’s the upper limit, if any?
We’re actually way ahead of everyone else in Los Angeles County. According to the Construction Industry Research Board of the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG), “In 2000, the City of Santa Monica had 5.5 (housing production) permits per 1,000 residents compared to the overall county figure of 2 permits per 1,000 residents. For the city in 2012, the number of (housing) permits per 1,000 residents increased to 7.5 permits. For the county overall, it decreased to 1.9 permits per 1,000 residents.”
Housing advocates who insist we’re shirking our housing duties should go talk to policy makers in Los Angeles, Culver City, Manhattan Beach, El Segundo, Westchester, Malibu, Beverly Hills, etc.” We’ve already built more than our fair share of “affordable” including true low income housing and have done more than most other California cities to solve and remedy a state-wide housing shortage. Keep in mind that at 10,663.8 persons per square mile, Santa Monica is now one of the densest cities in California.
Councilman Ted Winterer emailed me (as he occasionally does) and pointed out error in last week’s column.
He emailed, “The Planning Commission recommended that parking requirements be determined by use and whether a property is located within “Mixed Use Transportation Districts,” consisting of commercially zoned properties within proximity to Expo Light Rail stations and the high service transit intersections of Lincoln Boulevard at Pico Boulevard and Fourth Street at Santa Monica Boulevard, and “Residential and Commercial Conservation Districts,” consisting of all other zoning districts.”
It sounds very broad to me. Lots of generalities — all potatoes and no meat. If key intersections such as on Wilshire and other major streets are ever designated “high service transit intersections” and on-site parking standards are reduced, adjacent residential neighborhoods could be filled with traffic and commuters parking on their streets. I hope that staff better defines the locations affected by code updates and tightens down the conditions for reducing on-site parking and other contentious issues in their final recommendations to council.
Everything will be finalized at the May 5 council meeting.
Last week, I wrote about the 2919 Lincoln Boulevard/802 Ashland Avenue appeal going before the Planning Commission. It denied the appeal as I said it would, because commissioners could only deal with Architectural Review Board-related issues like cosmetics and appearance and were unable to reduce this project’s excessive size and mass which had already been administratively approved. This project sets a new low for the city’s planning process.
Bill Bauer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.