Santa Monica City Council typically meets twice a month, but with the deadline for the City’s Housing Element Update looming, councilmembers are set to meet once again next week.

Council’s special scheduled meeting is set to begin at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 30, and the only topic on the agenda is a recommendation that City Council review, discuss, and provide direction on the concepts and strategies it wishes to see staff include in the draft Housing Element Update that will be considered in June.

Since the launch of the update process in September 2020, staff has conducted webinars and study sessions and worked with two technical working groups on housing production and housing stability to work through the many concepts that will be brought forward for broader community input and discussion next week.

Council has also been busy throughout the process as well. Just last week, it temporarily banned nonresidential developments and single unit dwellings in the city’s commercial zones through an Emergency Interim Zoning Ordinance since the turnover of these sites to non-residential development instead of housing projects would greatly impact the City’s ability to have sufficient sites for its Suitable Sites Inventory, which identifies barriers to the production of housing — both for market-rate and affordable housing.

The SSI is one of the most important aspects of the housing element process but the Housing Element also features a needs assessment, discussion about the barriers to development, evaluation of progress and implementation plans. Staff said in the agenda report that these and many other questions will be discussed in detail since the City must be creative in finding ways to build the 8,895 units that it has been mandated to construct between 2021 and 2029.

Some local leaders have felt a need to challenge the housing allocations, stating it’s very difficult for the state to make a local municipality do the bidding of the state without giving it the proper financial support or considering how the changes will affect infrastructure and residents.

Councilmember Christine Parra noted in December many cities throughout California had banded together to try to affect change so that they can have their allocations lowered, but staff said this Housing Element has one of the fastest turnarounds ever and given the cuts to City Hall in the wake of COVID-19, Council agreed it was better to not waste precious time fighting.

Instead, Council will look to address five questions that staff has presented, which include, among others: where should housing be located to meet adopted goals of locating near daily needs like open space, schools, jobs, and shops while also overcoming historic patterns of segregation, and what updates to programs and services should be prioritized that would best ensure the housing stability of existing Santa Monica residents?