Santa Monica is considering banning fast food restaurants from the Third Street Promenade as it continues its efforts to revitalize the shopping district.
The Santa Monica City Council will vote Tuesday night on prohibiting fast food restaurants from opening on the Promenade, but the emergency zoning ordinance wouldn’t only apply to burger joints like Steak ‘n Shake, which opened on the Promenade in October 2014. It would also prevent new coffee, pizza and ice cream shops from opening – provided they are part of chains with more than 150 locations nationwide.
The ordinance is a crucial part of the City’s efforts to transform the Promenade into a community gathering place, staff said. As online retailers depress brick-and-mortar sales, the district is trying to offer shoppers a social experience they can’t find online.
Staff said the proliferation of fast food restaurants on the Promenade is inconsistent with that vision.
“If current regulations continue, small- and medium-sized dining establishments could be eliminated from the Promenade and replaced with duplicative and formulaic chains, decreasing the diversity of food offerings to residents and visitors, thereby negatively impacting the character and purpose of the Promenade,” the ordinance says.
Traditional fast food restaurants have historically been prohibited downtown with exceptions for certain properties, said Downtown Santa Monica, Inc. (DTSM) CEO Kathleen Rawson. But fast-casual restaurants like Bibibop and Chipotle have proliferated over the past decade, prompting the City to reevaluate how it classifies restaurants.
The ordinance would ban restaurants and cafes with more than 150 domestic locations, which Rawson said is designed to keep businesses like Taco Bell or Jack in the Box away while letting smaller chains like Tender Greens or CAVA set up shop.
However, Rawson said DTSM believes the ordinance should only apply to fast food, not incidental food, which would include Starbucks and Yogurtland. If passed, the emergency zoning ordinance will take effect for 60 days while the City develops a permanent ordinance.
Other items on the Council’s agenda include emergency housing for Woolsey fire evacuees, cell antennas and minimum wage enforcement.
Mayor Ted Winterer is asking the Council consider a request from Community Corporation of Santa Monica to house Woolsey fire victims in vacant affordable housing units. Staff will evaluate which victims the City should prioritize, such as families with children in Malibu-based Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Schools.
The Council will discuss an item that it was scheduled to vote on Nov. 13, but chose to continue to its next meeting so more Councilmembers could be present. The Council will vote to establish standards for how cell antennas should look and ensure they comply with the Federal Communications Commission’s radio frequency emissions benchmarks.
Telecommunications companies are filing more applications to build “small cell sites” on existing infrastructure, such as wooden utility poles and streetlights, as they upgrade their wireless networks. The City is trying to limit the impact of new antennas on the aesthetics of Santa Monica neighborhoods, although the Federal Communications Commission has restricted the authority of local jurisdictions to regulate them.
Following a report last month detailing staff efforts to publicize and enforce the City’s minimum wage ordinance – which included the Deputy City Attorney prosecuting three employers for minimum wage violations – the Council will vote on modifications to the ordinance.
The revised ordinance stipulates that Santa Monica’s minimum and hotel wages align over time and tweaks various regulations on sick leave and business surcharges. It also indicates that staff will focus less on informing employers about the ordinance and instead place a greater emphasis on enforcement.
The Council will meet in its chambers at City Hall, 1685 Main St, at 7 p.m. on Nov. 27.