Santa Monica City Hall (File photo)

After several weeks of council agendas filled with Covid emergencies, budget cuts and administrative items, the gears of local government are moving into high gear this week with an agenda heavy on substance.

Council will debate the future of a controversial development project downtown, a potential revenue ballot measure for the November election and a host of changes to local transportation rules.

The current Plaza project, located along Arizona between 4th and 5th, is up to 11 stories (129 feet in height) with up to 240 hotel rooms, no more than 106,800 square feet (SF) of creative workspace, 42,000 SF of ground-floor retail space, and 820 parking spaces within a three-level subterranean garage. Of the approximately 2.6 acre site, nearly an acre of publicly accessible open space is planned alongside a 12,000 SF cultural amenity space and 48 on-site affordable apartments that could potentially be provided off-site.

Negotiations were suspended earlier this year when the State expanded rules for government owned property but officials have since ruled the site is exempt from the expanded restrictions. However, opponents of the project have argued that the exemption is flawed and have said proceeding with the current project would expose the city to a lawsuit.

Staff are asking the council to make a decision Tuesday to either move forward with the current project, begin talks with the existing developer about a different project or abandon plans for the site entirely.

At their last meeting, council rescinded plans to add a ballot measure to that would have reorganized local boards and commissions. At the time, council alluded to a more significant ballot measure taking precedence this year and on July 28 they will discuss options for a new measure to generate revenue.

On Tuesday council will consider approving a ballot measure that if passed, would increase the fees on the sale of property worth more than $5 million. The fee would increase to $6 per thousand on the sale price and apply to about 10 percent of all sales in the city per year. Staff said it could generate about $3 million per year for the next few years and increase to $5.5 million down the line.

Also on the agenda is a discussion revising several kinds of transportation rules.

Council will debate suspending some Transportation Demand Management requirements, including the Emissions Reduction and Worksite Transportation plans, for employers of 49 people or fewer, suspending the City rideshare program and reducing Transportation Management Organization services. Staff are proposing elimination of the requirement for a local pedicab driver permit and operator permits but they would retain existing requirements for a business license, insurance, inspection decal, and pedicab driver and carriage requirements. Council is set to approve a new preferential parking zone but it could be the last for up to four years under a proposal to suspend designation of new or amended preferential parking zones. Zones already under review could finish their process. Changes are also proposed to allow a fully-private operator to takeover the City’s bikeshare program and to transition taxis from the current franchise-based system to a permit-based system and pursue regional permitting options.

editor@smdp.com