Local officials could allow affordable housing to be built by-right to incentivize the production of 6,000 units of housing for low and moderate-income households over the next nine years.

Santa Monica and other Southern California cities rich in jobs and public transit will be required to accommodate more housing than ever before under a forthcoming state mandate aimed at addressing the state’s housing crisis. Santa Monica will likely receive a mandate to zone for about 9,000 new units between 2021 and 2029, two-thirds of which must be affordable for low and moderate-income households.

City Hall could take its first step toward meeting that goal Wednesday, when the Planning Commission will meet to discuss recommending that City Council vote to permit 100% affordable housing projects to bypass the city’s public review process.

The city’s Land Use and Circulation Element requires development taller than two stories to undergo a discretionary review process that includes several public hearings at the Planning Commission and Architectural Review Board.

Housing projects that contain only affordable units are exempt from that process, as long as they have 50 or fewer units and are deed-restricted to households earning less than 80% of the area median income. In all areas of the city except for Downtown, 100% affordable housing projects containing more than 50 units still have to go through discretionary review.

City planners now recommend that all affordable housing for households earning up to 120% of the area median income that complies with existing zoning and design standards should only undergo administrative review.

To comply with the 2017 Housing Accountability Act, city planners are also recommending that market-rate housing projects that conform to existing standards be reviewed by city staff.

Officials say exempting many housing projects — both affordable and market-rate — from the discretionary review process, which adds substantial time and cost to new development, would help Santa Monica satisfy its 9,000-unit mandate.

Planning Commissioner Richard McKinnon said earlier this month that some conditions the Planning Commission often adds to projects, such as corporate housing restrictions and sustainability features, should be incorporated in the standards applied to all housing projects.

McKinnon also said the city should revisit its height and density standards in transit-rich areas such as downtown or Bergamot in order to accommodate 9,000 new units — an idea City Council expressed support for in December.

“We should set those standards, make it very clear and then take ourselves out of the process,” he said.

The Planning Commission will meet Wednesday, Feb. 19 in the East Wing of the Civic Auditorium, 1855 Main St.

madeleine@smdp.com

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2 Comments

  1. I don’t want to live next to the Salvation Army. Since when are projects built north of Montana? I spend a lot of money living here; I don’t want to hear 10 kids screaming from one apartment. I don’t want to hear their blaring music. Are you trying deliberately to destroy this city? Whats wrong with San Bernadino, Palmdale these towns have plenty of space. why here?

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