Construction: Some of the proposed developments have been put up for sale. Courtesy image

Overview:

Developers have begun filing permits to build large housing projects throughout the city that far exceed local zoning restrictions and while those permits are subject to cursory review, the City lacks any clear path to head off construction of more than 4,500 new units.

The wave front of an incoming development Tsunami caused by the City’s failure to adopt a compliant housing element has reached local shores thanks to a flurry of administrative activity.

Developers have begun filing permits to build large housing projects throughout the city that far exceed local zoning restrictions and while those permits are subject to cursory review, the City lacks any clear path to head off construction of more than 4,500 new units.

The housing element is a state mandated component of a City’s overall planning documents.

State regulators said Santa Monica should demonstrate the capacity to build about 9,000 new housing units with about 2,000 of those low-income, in its housing plans. A compliant housing element doesn’t require those units get built but it should provide evidence that City rules can facilitate that much development if it were called for.

However, the Santa Monica City Council adopted a housing element that state regulators rejected for being too restrictive and upon rejection, developers gained access to the “Builder’s Remedy.”

The law has been part of the process for years but was greatly strengthened in 2019 and any housing project that meets affordability levels is automatically approved unless it presents a clear public health threat.

Santa Monica received 16 such applications and if built, the proposed 4,500 units would be double the total built in the last 20 years. While there’s no established way for the City to stop those projects, the private developers who hold the entitlements must still fulfill the requirements of the process and those steps began in recent weeks.

The initial applications were drafts but three projects have moved onto final applications including property at 1420-22 20th Street, 1238 7th Street and 1215 19th Street.

The 20th Street project proposes 50 housing units, including 10 affordable units in six stories. The lot is currently home to 10 units in a single level.

The 7th Street project, by WS Communities, proposes 75 housing units including 15 affordable units in 10 stories. The 7,500 square feet lot is currently home to a single-level office building.

A third has been filed by a different company for a 100 percent affordable housing project at 1215 19th Street.

Pending payment of application fees, those applications will be routed for review by staff to determine if they can be deemed complete in accordance with processing timelines. Developers have about four months left to finish the process.

WS Communities has also requested demolition permits for 1433-1437 Euclid and 1007 Lincoln Blvd. to facilitate a Builder’s Remedy projects.

At the Dec. 13 Council meeting, City Manager David White said the demolition permit process had additional requirements before approval was possible.

“No demolition permit has been issued on this property,” he said. “Because the building is subject to rent control the demolition permit will be routed to the Rent Control Board and the demolition permit cannot be issued until the owner has withdrawn the property from the rental market using either the Ellis act or has received a removal permit from the Rent Control Board.”

WS Communities is an offshoot of Neil Shekhter’s NMS company and filed for 14 of the 16 total Builder’s Remedy projects. While WS Communities has opted to sell three of the projects as investments, they have expressed a desire to develop the other 11.

editor@smdp.com

Matthew Hall

Matthew Hall has a Masters Degree in International Journalism from City University in London and has been Editor-in-Chief of SMDP since 2014. Prior to working at SMDP he managed a chain of weekly papers...