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The New Year will ring in a new system of regulating development along Santa Monica’s coast, starting with the Jan. 6 Planning Commission meeting where commissioners will be asked to weigh in on the upcoming revisions to Santa Monica’s Local Coastal Plan (LCP).

The new plan will update a 1992 document and if approved the LCP would streamline potential coastal development by centralizing authority with the City of Santa Monica as opposed to the current system that requires the involvement of the California Coastal Commission.

A Local Coastal Plan has two elements; a Land Use Plan (LUP) and an Implementation Plan. The commission must approve both.

The LUP describes the planning area’s land use and environmental conditions, identifies issues and contains land use policies and maps and that complement adopted City policy and satisfy the intent of the State Coastal Act. The LUP must maintain consistency with the General Plan, and LUP policies and regulations take precedence within the Coastal Zone. The Implementation Plan, also sometimes referred to as a Coastal Zoning Ordinance (CZO) is a zoning document that contains the standards with which development in the coastal zone must comply,” the staff report said.

Santa Monica received the commission’s approval for a LUP in 1992, however at that time the commission did not approve the Implementation Plan. The bifurcated system has required potential developers to receive approval from both the City and the commission.

If the Coastal Commission approves both aspects of the new plan, most review and approval would be conducted by City Hall. The commission would be involved only if the proposal involves tidelands, submerged lands, or public trust lands. It would also act on appeals of local government coastal permit decisions within a certain area inward from the coastline.

According to staff, the new LCP will integrate many of the zoning plans created since 1992 including the LUCE, Civic Center Specific Plan, Beach Overlay Zone (Prop S), Downtown Specific Plan, Bike Action Plan, Pedestrian Action Plan and Sustainable City Plan. The LCP would account for the arrival of the Expo line in Santa Monica, new uses at the Pier and a revitalized northern beach zone, thanks to the Annenberg Community Beach House.

Staff said additional transportation changes, such as changes to bus routes, additional downtown parking facilities, the Breeze bike share, pedestrian enhancements and other wayfinding changes will also be evaluated as part of the process.

The LCP will apply to about a 1.5 square mile area between the Pacific Ocean and 4th Street north of Pico Boulevard or Lincoln Boulevard south of Pico. According to the staff report, up to 7 million visitors access Santa Monica’s coastal zone annually.

“Taken together, all of these changes to the mobility environment provide potential for reevaluating the assumptions for coastal access policies and considering alternatives that are less dependent on maintaining or increasing the parking stock in the area west of Pacific Coast Highway,” the staff report states.

Money for the new plan has been secured through grants, including partly via money managed by the Office of Sustainability and the Environment (OSE).

“This grant funds a USC Sea Grant study on sea level rise in Santa Monica and the surrounding areas,” said the staff report. “This project has already made great progress toward developing a highly sophisticated model for forecasting the potential impacts of sea level rise, more frequent, higher intensity storm events, and cliff erosion that in the Los Angeles region that will inform the planning needed in Santa Monica in the immediate coastal area.”

The commission will be specifically asked to provide feedback on an outreach program at their Jan. 6 meeting. According to the staff report, public outreach will begin immediately with the release of a draft document by June of 2016. Additional hearings will be held by various local boards/commissions, including City Council, with the goal of adopting the LCP in early 2017.

Planning Commission will meet Wednesday, Jan. 6 at City Hall, 1685 Main St. at 7 p.m.

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...