It’s an election-heavy agenda for the July 12 City Council meeting.

Council will hear a report on the Land Use Voter Empowerment Initiative (LUVE), finalize language for a ballot measure revising anti-corruption laws and approve another ballot measure for a new tax to fund affordable housing.

LUVE will require voter approval for development over 32 feet, all development agreements and major revisions to zoning codes. It provides some exemptions for affordable housing and exempts some specific parcels of land.

The measure has already qualified for the November ballot but Council had the ability to ask for a study on the topic before either scheduling it for a vote or adopting it into law. The results of that study will be presented on July 12.

The staff report states that “LUVE does not exempt from voter approval buildings reconstructed because of damage (whether in an earthquake or some other event) if the building exceeds Tier 1 limits” and therefore, LUVE would complicate the ability of property owners to rebuild following a disaster.

LUVE lists some specific properties as exempt from its restrictions and according to staff that would create inconsistent planning rules.

“For example, a 3-story, 6-unit condo project in the R3 multi-unit residential zone would require voter approval while a 5-story, 100- unit apartment project on Lincoln Boulevard would not require voter approval,” said the report.

As LUVE is tied to the Tier system in the city’s general plan, any area not subject to Tiered restrictions, such as the Civic Center or Downtown Core, would not be covered. City Hall is working on a specific zoning document for Downtown and if LUVE were to put that plan to a vote that rejected the rules, development in the area would revert to a combination of 1984 and 1988 standards.

While LUVE exempts some affordable housing projects it also exempts 100 percent moderate income projects and staff said that incentive could undermine efforts to secure deeper levels of affordability in projects.

LUVE would delay the approval process for most projects, cover the vast majority of currently proposed housing projects, delay approval for specific zoning documents,  and would cover City projects such as the recently approved fire station.

The report also states LUVE might impede housing development to a degree that could prevent certification of the city’s housing element and identifies areas where the proposed rules are unclear.

Other ballot measures

Council has been working on its own ballot measures for November, both of which return for final approval this month.

On June 28, the City Council considered proposed language for amending it’s anti-corruption laws known as the Oaks Initiative. The new language needs to be approved by voters and council will have one more pass at the rules on Tuesday.

“The new proposed language consists of a ‘reach back’ provision applicable to all types of City contracts, a change in the placement of language relating to “nesting” corporations, and the addition of language limiting remedies to willful and knowing violations,” said the staff report.

Council will also take a second pass at a pair of ballot measures tied to funding affordable housing.

“The first measure would allow voters to express their preference that increased General Fund revenues associated with an increase in the transaction and use tax be used for affordable housing and local public schools. The second measure would supplement General Fund revenues through an increase in the transaction and use tax,” said the report.

A transaction and use tax is similar to sales tax. With the proposed half cent increase, the total levy in Santa Monica would increase to 10 percent.

City Yards

Deviating from the election theme, Council is being asked to make decisions related to the revitalization of the City Yards.

The yards house many city services and have been in need of repair for years. Staff are recommending adoption of a proposed construction schedule and an increase in the contract amount with the design company.

As proposed by staff Phase 1 of construction would include side preparation, building the fleet maintenance structure, new parking and new storage. Phase 2 would build Administration buildings for Resource, Recovery and Recycling, Fleet Maintenance, Street Maintenance, and Custodial Services. Phase 3 would build the Traffic Operations building, build Rosie’s Girls Community Room, build Facilities Maintenance shops (partial completion), add new Resource, Recovery and Recycling parking and new medium vehicle parking for field operations.

Staff are also asking for approval of new ordinance regulating wireless communications equipment in the public right of way. Wireless providers have a legal right to install equipment in the public right of way and staff said the City’s current rules are out of date. The proposed changes expand design guidelines, provide detailed design requirements, adds definitions for concealment elements and adds other definitions to help streamline the process while protecting the city.

“The ordinance balances the community’s need for services, the industry’s need to deploy quickly, and the City’s obligation to maintain public health and safety and protect the aesthetic qualities of our neighborhoods,” said the report.

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Matthew Hall

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...