MONTANA: Empty stores no more. SMDP file photo

After an eight-hour January meeting council has decided to lighten its load going into February by just addressing a state of emergency for homelessness, the city’s ongoing housing element, updates on sustainability programs and adoption of rules to formalize the city’s parklet programs.

Housing Element

Santa Monica adopted a housing element last year after a controversial process that allowed more than 4,000 housing units to enter the development pipeline virtually unopposed. In order to retain control over additional development, the City has to implement various policy changes by predetermined deadlines and by October of this year, several programs pertaining to rezoning for housing must be complete.

The Planning Commission previously debated the issue and asked Council to request an amendment to the Housing Element to preserve existing limitations on development along Neighborhood Commercial (NC) zones that include portions of Montana, Main Street, Ocean Park Blvd. and Pico Blvd.

As currently written the housing element allows denser projects in those areas that would create housing above ground floor retail and the Commission said such action would jeopardize the city’s economic recovery.

“The proposed amendment would fine-tune the program by retaining the City’s long-term commitment to providing access to housing opportunity while ensuring we maintain complete neighborhoods that provide access to economic opportunity and address vehicle miles traveled concerns,” said the Commission in a letter to Council.

City staff said such a revision could potentially jeopardize compliance with state rules opening the door for more developers to force projects into the city outside local control.

“… in summary, it appears that not rezoning the NC zone and further upzoning a portion of the Bergamot area beyond that already stated in the certified Housing Element would likely be rejected by HCD,” said the staff report. “HCD’s guidance is consistent with their review of prior drafts of the Housing Element (before certification) where staff was directed to remove language regarding flexibility to increase or decrease FAR/height in favor of actual commitments to rezoning.”

According to staff, if the City were to fall out of compliance for failure to rezone the City would be subject to consequences and penalties under State law, including the option for developers to file applications for “builder’s remedy” projects, ineligibility of grant funding, vulnerability to litigation from third parties, and enforcement actions by the State, potentially resulting in substantial fines.

Sustainable City Plan

Council pushed discussion of the City’s Sustainable Plan to February after their last meeting in January went long.

Council will receive an update on sustainability measures.

“For almost three decades, the City of Santa Monica has been modeling sustainable practices that demonstrate that economic vitality, social equity and environmental protection are mutually dependent priorities for our community,” said the staff report. “The City has taken responsibility to act locally and address the risks of climate change, drought, extreme heat, social injustice and economic volatility by integrating sustainable practices across our organization and knitting sustainability into the fabric of our community.”


Santa Monica moved from temporary to permanent parklet rules this year late last year but some businesses said the program was too expensive or didn’t meet their needs. In response to some of those complaints, the program will be modified to allow some businesses to take up to four parking spaces for their parklets (up from two) and clarify the need for insurance from participating businesses.


Council will debate a local state of emergency for homelessness. Several agencies including Culver City, County of Los Angeles, City of Los Angeles, and Long Beach have taken similar actions recently in an effort to free up funds and cut red-tape associated with the ongoing humanitarian crisis.

Council will meet on Tuesday, Feb. 14 at City Hall, 1685 Main Street. Closed session begins at 5:30 p.m. and open session begins no earlier than 6:30 p.m.

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...