Santa Monica’s Downtown Community Plan is beginning its final trip through the halls of local government with a first stop at a special City Council meeting on July 10.
The Monday meeting will be focused on public comment and City Hall wants residents to attend with feedback on the document. Council will reconvene on Tuesday for a regular meeting that will include Council’s deliberations on the plan. The first vote by the council is scheduled for July 25.
The DCP, formerly known as the Downtown Specific Plan, creates specialized zoning rules for the Downtown area between Wilshire, the freeway, Lincoln and the beach. City Hall has previously revised the city’s zoning code and the Land Use and Circulation Element but Downtown was specifically excluded from the citywide standards to allow for an area specific plan. All new construction will have to adhere to the DCP’s standards for mobility, height and density.
Officials describe the plan as a results-oriented document that will make downtown more accessible while promoting sustainability but critics have voiced concern over development standards.
Opposition to the plan can be found on both sides of the development issue with some arguing the plan facilitates too much development in the roughly half square mile zone while others say it does too little to address a lack of housing in the city.
After more than six years in development, the document began circulating among the city’s boards and commissions this year and the Planning Commission held six meetings about the DCP.
In response to those, and other community meetings, staff have highlighted several specific issues for council consideration including housing production, building height for three specific projects and commercial office restrictions.
Council is being presented with four options if they want to increase housing in the plan; ease entitlements for some housing projects, reduce height and density for commercial projects, require all projects on sites of greater than 15,000 square feet to have at least 50% of the floor area be residential uses (except for hotels, movie theaters, auto dealers, public infrastructure, and the Third Street Promenade) and increase height and density standards pending environmental review.
Staff are recommending the first option if Council wants to alter the housing section of the plan.
The DCP allows three projects to reach a height of up to 130 feet. According to the staff report, feedback over the proposal has been split 50-50 over the three sites and council is being asked to consider leaving all three sites in the plan, creating a universal rule reducing all three projects or altering each project individually.
Commercial office space in the DCP is generally prohibited on the ground floor except in an area of downtown already populated by ground floor offices. The Planning Commission recommended removing that exemption but the staff report said doing so would create a large number of non-conforming businesses and that the demand for ground floor retail might not be strong enough to warrant removing the offices.
Council is being asked to specifically consider the presence of ground floor office space and if they choose to leave office space in the plan, consider an option to permit it between 4th and 7th Court in mid-block parcels.
Council will meet at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall, 1685 Main St. on July 10 and again at the same time and place on July 11. Visit https://www.smgov.net/departments/clerk/agendas.aspx to see the complete agenda.