Santa Monica City Hall (File photo)

BY MATTHEW HALL

 

City Hall will be wading into a pair of water related topics at the Nov. 22 Council meeting including a study session on land use priorities for the coast and a public hearing on 2017 water rates.

The Council’s closed session will include recruitment for a new City Attorney, updates on several lawsuits (including ongoing litigation with AirBnB) and negotiations over property sales. The consent calendar includes grants from Homeland Security, property management services at the airport,  contracts for building public restrooms and the purchase of protective equipment for firefighters.

The first item of substance will be a study session of documents related to Santa Monica’s desire to regain more control of development along the coast.

The Council is being asked to review and comment on the proposed policy direction for the City’s Local Coastal Program Land Use Plan update.

The Land Use Plan is one of two documents that will create a new Local Coastal Program for Santa Monica.

“The LUP describes the planning area’s land use and environmental conditions, identifies issues, and contains land use policies and maps that complement adopted City policy and satisfy the intent of the State Coastal Act. The LUP must comply with the Coastal Act and maintain consistency with the General Plan,” said the Staff report.

The second element is an Implementation Plan, also known as a Coastal Zoning Ordinance, contains development standards for the coastal zone.

Once both documents are certified by the Coastal Commission, Santa Monica would become the primary authority for issuing development permits in the coastal zone.

“The Coastal Commission would retain permanent coastal permit jurisdiction over development proposed on tidelands, submerged lands, and public trust lands, and would also act on appeals of local government coastal development permit decisions within a certain area inward from the coastline,” said the report. “The Coastal Commission also reviews and approves any amendments to previously certified Local Coastal Programs.”

Up to this point, the Coastal Commission has retained authority over local coastal projects because Santa Monica previously adopted an LUP but did not adopt an Implementation Plan.

Staff said revised documents are needed to account for the many changes along the coast including the arrival of Expo, plans for the Civic Center, revival of the Pier and construction of the Annenberg Beach House. The Coastal Commission also wants revised documents that will incorporate their new programs and policies related to climate change.

Staffs are specifically asking for Council input on five topics.

Coastal Access is the first item on the list. Council is expected to discuss a “multi-modal approach to coastal access” that will utilize parking throughout the zone including at the Civic Center and Main Street. New activity could be supported by multi-modal access with a small reduction in Pier parking and the use of traffic plans instead of requiring additional parking near the pier.

When discussing scenic and visual resources council will be asked to remove to “scenic view corridors” that do not offer coastal views (the Santa Monica Freeway and the Third Street Promenade) while exploring other scenic viewpoints suggested by the Planning Commission.

In relation to sea level rise, council will be asked to consider “a phased approach to adaptation strategies and development restrictions based on measurement and documentation of actual sea level rise and the anticipated life span of proposed projects.  This phased approach would create thresholds and ‘trigger’ points at which the City would need to adopt more definitive standards, requirements and adaptation programs applicable to affected coastal areas with favor for lower-impact deterrents such as dunes rather than sea walls.”

Additional discussion will focus on aligning the LUP’s development standards with existing zoning documents and reformulation of the low-cost visitor accommodation replacement fee.

The Council agenda lists a public hearing on the State of the Water Fund Report and 2017 Water Rate Adjustment.

Staff are recommending a 5 percent water rate increase for 2017.

The recommendation is less than the previously approved 9 percent increase and is based on changes to the city’s Water Fund capital program that creates better budget projections.

Council previously approved five annual 9 percent rate increases in starting in 2015. While the first increase was at the full 9 percent, the 2016 increase was only 5 percent due to better than expected revenues.

“The recommended rate adjustment would be sufficient to allow the City to fund necessary operating and capital programs; to deliver potable water to Santa Monica customers reliably, safely and sustainably in compliance with federal and state regulations; and stay on track to achieve water self-sufficiency as planned by 2020,” said the staff report.

“The recommended 5% water rate increase for 2017 instead of the previously approved 9% increase would be effective for calendar year 2017 on bills issued on or about March 1, 2017 to February 28, 2018, with up to 9% increases authorized for 2018 and 2019 pending annual evaluation by Council and staff.”

Council meets at City Hall, 1685 Main St. on Nov. 22. Closed session begins at 5:30 p.m. Visit http://www.smgov.net/departments/clerk/agendas.aspx for more information.

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