Santa Monica’s Housing Element governs the city’s approach to residential development and will be up for discussion this week. Photo courtesy of Century West Partners.

After several months of community engagement and discussions, Santa Monica’s Housing Element has been released to the public for review ahead of this Wednesday’s Planning Commission discussion.

State law requires the City of Santa Monica to update its Housing Element every eight years since the mandated document serves as the City’s future housing plan and sets clear goals and objectives that will help local leaders meet the housing needs of all segments of the city’s population and prevent the displacement of existing residents.

Santa Monica’s 6th Cycle Housing Element must be adopted and certified by October 2021 if the City wishes to avoid penalties and avoid the loss of important State funding. So, staff has been hard at work conducting webinars and study sessions to work through the many concepts that have been proposed since the launch of the update process in September 2020. 

Some proposals included in the recently released document call for the increased density in existing neighborhoods as a way to acknowledge the impact that past discriminatory practices have had on housing development. Other propositions will allow the City to satisfy the Housing Element’s most basic requirements, but some local leaders have taken issue with such a mindset.

Councilwoman Christine Parra said in December it’s very difficult for the state to make a local municipality do its bidding without giving it the proper financial support or considering how the changes will affect infrastructure and the residents in a city.

“I really would like to see our city attorney send a letter to SCAG to ask them for a review of our RHNA numbers. And then I also would love to have staff research and assemble a report on the other California cities that are actively mounting legal challenges through the regional RHNA allocations,” Parra said.

Organizations like Santa Monica Forward feel the document doesn’t go far enough though, according to a petition that’s circulating online.

“If left unaddressed, we fear that Santa Monica’s Housing Element will not be the strong plan that our City is capable of producing, but rather a box-checking exercise that perpetuates Santa Monica’s history of exclusion, segregation, and placating non-representative opposition at the expense of planning for the future,” the letter states.

City staff previously reminded residents that the Housing Element does not build new units, but rather provides a plan of action for producing housing of all types and income levels in the City. Residents are invited to learn more about the process by tuning in to this week’s meeting at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday. It will be live streamed and a link to the upcoming discussion can be found by visiting bit.ly/3uqJETq.

Brennon@smdp.com