Santa Monica City Hall (File photo)

Editor’s note: The original version of this story conflated unbundled parking with reduced parking requirements. This has been corrected. A correction will appear in the print edition of the newspaper.

Will it never end?

City Council worked, shaping the updated Zoning Ordinance, until after 3 a.m. before agreeing to continue the discussion next Tuesday.

The Zoning Ordinance, which will dictate land uses throughout the city for years to come, is nearly ready for adoption, with council asking city planners and attorneys to return with clarified language on a few of the hundreds of pages that make up the document.

Council voted, often splitting 4 to 3 on specific issues, to amend the Land Use and Circulation Element (LUCE), another key planning document.

One amendment removed activity centers, aimed at encouraging higher density development, on Wilshire Boulevard. Councilmembers Pam O’Connor and Terry O’Day opposed this change.

Another set of amendments removed the allowance of Tier 3 development, or taller and denser development, along portions of the mixed-use boulevards with the exception of projects that contain 100 percent affordable housing or projects that protect a designated City Landmark.

As was the case during the last Zoning Ordinance debate, this was the most contentious issue of the night among the seven council members.

Councilmember Gleam Davis argued vehemently, as she did last week, against this change, claiming that it would deter the production of housing and would not allow Wilshire to evolve beyond the series of one-story businesses. Without larger housing projects, she argued, affordable housing won’t get financed.

Mayor Pro Tempore Tony Vazquez expressed a desire to proceed with caution, claiming that the highest levels of density allowed under the new Zoning Ordinance would be denser than those allowed under the previous one. In a year, he said, if housing production has declined in the city, council could consider amending the ordinance.

Davis doubted that this would ever actually happen and suggested the inverse: Allowing more density for residential projects on the boulevards and revisiting the issue in a year.

O’Day, who concurred with Davis’ points, noted that council would have the ability to review and reject any of the Tier 3 projects that came along.

The other four council members, Vazquez, Kevin McKeown, Sue Himmelrich, and Ted Winterer were, again, unmoved.

Council had to vote on seven proposed amendments in one motion. Davis agreed with several of the amendments, so she expressed ambivalence in supporting the bundled motion, which passed 5 to 2, with O’Day and O’Connor casting dissenting votes.

Council also voted to require unbundled parking at new commercial projects within an area designated at a Demand Management Zone.

Bundled parking is when landlords offer parking to every tenant, regardless of whether or not they have a car, essentially tacking on the cost of parking to every apartment. Unbundled parking allows residents to pay extra for their parking space but doesn’t require that they have one.

Later this year, council is expected to review a preferential parking study and, Winterer pointed out, they could revisit the issue at that time.

McKeown was the lone dissenting vote.

Council grappled with the appropriate number of bedrooms each unit should have in a residential project. Many council members expressed an interest in creating more housing for families but they disagreed over how best to make that happen.

In they end, they agreed to require that at least 15 percent of units contain three bedrooms, at least 20 percent contain two bedrooms, and a maximum of 15 percent of units be studio apartments.

On Tuesday, council will continue discussing the ordinance, taking one last look before approving a first reading. Later in the month, council could adopt the ordinance in a second reading.

The Planning Commission discussed the ordinance over 33 meetings in the past year. Council listened to five hours of public comment last month and another three hours this week. They discussed the ordinance for seven hours last month and another five hours this week.

dave@www.smdp.com

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