The City Council expressed support Tuesday for upzoning and removing barriers to development during a discussion of how to accommodate the 9,000 homes the state might require Santa Monica to approve over the next decade.

Santa Monica and other Southern California cities with abundant jobs and transit will be required to zone for more housing than ever before under a forthcoming state mandate intended to address California’s housing shortage. Officials say that expanding the housing supply near jobs and rail lines will alleviate the affordability crisis and reduce the region’s dependence on cars.

The City Council agreed Tuesday that development on major boulevards and near transit must be taller and denser if Santa Monica is to fulfill its obligation to zone for 9,000 units.

Council members said the city should allow developers to build more units on a site in exchange for including more affordable units in the project, streamline the development approval process and eliminate or dramatically reduce parking requirements.

“We need to fundamentally reorient our approach to housing in this city,” said Mayor Pro Tempore Terry O’Day. “For years, it’s been easier to say no and place restrictions on housing, and it’s these kinds of anti-growth and exclusionary policies that have gotten us into the mess we’re in as a state, as a region and as a city.”

Council members said affordable housing developers like Community Corporation of Santa Monica should operate under relaxed height and density limits, go through a faster approval process and pay fewer city fees. 50% of the 9,000 units Santa Monica will be required to zone for between 2021 and 2029 must be affordable to very low- and low-income households.

Mayor Kevin McKeown said Santa Monica has historically relied on developers including affordable units in market-rate projects to meet its own affordability goals but will need to find new financing and construction strategies to meet the RHNA affordable housing targets.

“We have to rethink how we produce affordable housing,” he said.

McKeown and other council members said public land could be used for affordable housing and asked city staff to explore the possibility of appropriating the Department of Motor Vehicles parking lot at Cloverfield Boulevard and Colorado Avenue.

The Bergamot area and major boulevards — which the council voted to downzone in 2015 — need new development standards that stimulate the production of affordable and market-rate housing, said Councilmember Gleam Davis.

“Clearly, whatever density limits we’ve put in (Bergamot) have been a complete impediment to building the housing we want,” she said.

Davis said directing development to such areas instead of existing multi-family neighborhoods will prevent displacement and gentrification. She also suggested doing away with individual development agreements, which developers say significantly increase housing costs, and allow each neighborhood to set its own development requirements.

The Planning Commission and Housing Commission, however, suggested building housing in a radius around jobs and transit rather than concentrating it along boulevards. Leonora Camner, a housing commissioner and director of Abundant Housing L.A., said parking lots and commercial buildings in all areas of the city should become medium-density housing.

“Medium-density development is more affordable per unit than high-density development,” Camner said.

City Manager Rick Cole said the Planning Commission will consider the council’s recommendations in January. The council will vote on plans for Bergamot and the boulevards, parking requirements and changes to the development process in the next three months, Cole said.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *