Santa Monica City Hall (File photo)

With the prohibition on fast-food restaurants in the Third Street Promenade set to expire in November, Santa Monica’s Planning Commission will consider amendments that would make the moratorium on fast food uses with frontage on the Promenade permanent.

In November 2018, in order to ensure that the Promenade maintained its authentic characteristics, City Council adopted an urgency Interim Zoning Ordinance to prevent the proliferation of fast-food restaurants on the Promenade.

The ordinance defined a fast-food restaurant as a place where orders are taken at a walk-up window, counter or machine; payment is completed prior to food consumption; and food is served with disposable, one-time, or limited-use wrapping, containers, or utensils; and also banned restaurants and cafes that have more than 100 domestic locations.

“The threshold of 100 domestic locations was intended to prohibit traditional nationwide fast-food restaurants while permitting smaller regional chains and international fast-food restaurants likely to serve as a unique draw for consumers,” a staff report on Wednesday’s agenda states. “Fast food restaurants are formula establishments with numerous locations and standardized features… While this consistency breeds familiarity for consumers, it runs counter to the policies in the DCP that value the retention of Downtown’s authenticity and desire to encourage local uses and promote unique visitor experiences.”

The proposed amendments to SMMC Section 9.10.040 would make the existing interim prohibition permanent. However, given current economic conditions and an anticipated increase in vacancies caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Downtown Santa Monica Inc.’s CEO Kathleen Rawson has asked commissioners to consider a slight increase of the threshold from 100 domestic locations to 150.

“Prior to adoption of the IZO, City and DTSM staff conducted an extensive review of criteria used by other cities for defining fast food,” and staff believes the existing criteria to be most effective for enforcement and distinguishing between fast-food and fast-casual. DTSM also believes an increase in the threshold of locations would permit smaller regional chains and international fast-food restaurants, which are likely to serve as a unique draw for consumers, according to a letter from Rawson.

If passed by commissioners Wednesday, the proposed revisions would be sent to City Councilmembers for consideration at a future meeting.