Business: The pandemic forced some businesses to close but others capitalized on new rules to survive. Grace Adams

Several pandemic-era land use measures could be here to stay if a set of temporary provisions implemented in May 2020 to support businesses in the face of COVID-related challenges are made permanent by the City by the end of this year.

The provisions have allowed businesses increased flexibility over the last two years by eliminating the need for certain permits, relaxing alcohol exemption conditions and making it easier for spaces to be used for multiple and mixed purposes.

The Santa Monica Planning Commission reviewed two resolutions last week focused specifically on Main Street and the Third Street Promenade area to extend these provisions permanently. If not codified, the provisions are set to expire on Dec. 31 and the city would revert to pre-pandemic restrictions.

“The restrictions that are currently in place are contrary to the economic recovery efforts to simplify standards to support restaurants on Main Street,” said Steve Mizokami, associate planner for the city.

Jing Yeo, the planning manager for the city said that feedback from the business community regarding the temporary provisions has been overwhelmingly positive and several members of the public called into the meeting to voice their support for making them permanent.

“The flexibility provided by the provisions has presented new opportunities for vacant spaces to be leased to a broader range of uses, particularly with respect to restaurants,” said Jennefir Ingle, an associate attorney at Harding Larmore Kutcher and Kozal specializing in land use law.

According to staff, 70 small businesses in the city have permanently closed since the pandemic began. The relaxed measures have made it easier for new ones to open. Matt Stauffer, executive vice president of external affairs for the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce thinks that extending them will continue to be beneficial. 

“Hopefully we’re moving away from the era of uncertainty related to COVID, but we believe that permanent codification will provide stability and also support inclusive and equitable economic activity by allowing and encouraging smaller and a more diverse set of businesses to move in and revitalize our economy,” he said. 

The resolutions were unanimously approved by planning commissioners and will now head to the City Council for a vote.

grace@smdp.com