The following is the first in a series of columns produced to highlight the Downtown Community Plan. Content was produced in partnership with City staff and edited by the Santa Monica Daily Press. Future columns will address specific elements of the plan, philosophical underpinnings of the plan and respond to community input. 

The revised draft of the newly renamed Downtown Community Plan (formerly the Downtown Specific Plan) has been released to the public and city staff is actively seeking feedback on the document.

“This is a draft of the Plan for public review and we are definitely seeking guidance,” said Peter James, principal planner. “There will be quite a bit of outreach in the coming months.”

The DCP is a geographically focused zoning document that builds upon principles identified in the Land Use and Circulation Element (LUCE).

While the LUCE outlines philosophical approaches to guiding change in the downtown, implementation and specific standards were left for the Downtown Community Plan to address the neighborhood’s unique elements.

The revised draft was developed after two years of work, including dozens of workshops, public hearings, stakeholder interviews and broad discussions. Planners are now implementing another wave of outreach efforts to solicit feedback from residents, visitors, employees and business owners about the DCP.

The first opportunity for public input will arrive on March 2 and 3 with a doubleheader Planning Commission Meeting.

The Commission has scheduled the first meeting for Wednesday, March 2 at 6 p.m. with the only agendized item as, “A study session to review and receive Planning Commission comments on the elements contained within the second draft of the Downtown Community Plan, including but not limited to guiding principles, the proposed land use districts, development standards, regulations and design guidelines, access and mobility strategies, infrastructure, economic development and public space creation.”

Public comment is expected to dominate the March 2 meeting with Commission feedback extending into March 3. A potential third meeting could be scheduled on March 9 if necessary.

In an effort to attract as many participants as possible, City Hall is also planning speaker forums in March/April that will include presentations by subject matter experts and academics. The forums will focus on topics such as placemaking and mobility.

“We want to explain why this matters and go through the topics in more detail,” said Travis Page, senior planner.

The events will feature guest speakers or a panel of speakers and will include time for questions from the audience. City Hall will also distribute comment cards to allow residents to submit written questions.

Additional in-person events will continue for several weeks including small group discussions. Staff is going to organize a discussion series for groups of 15-20 people to meet with officials about the plan. Those discussion groups will be scheduled as needed and available to anyone who would like to participate.

“We want the conversation to be open and for folks to be able to draw lines between the plan and the narrative in the meetings,” James said. “We want to get away from the idea that planners are off inventing this stuff in a lab by themselves.”

City Hall is also trying to cast a wide net for community input and staff has developed alternative communication channels that will hopefully appeal to participants that might not attend a traditional workshop.

For the digital generation, staff has created a new website with multiple interactive features. The site allows users to submit written comments on the draft while providing information on the project. Users will be able to access the plan, see photos, take surveys and submit their preferences about the project.

For more information about the DCP and outreach opportunities, visit downtownsmplan.net.