Santa Monica Lookout
Santa Monica Staff Drops Moratorium Option for Development Agreements
By Jason Islas
January 8, 2013 -- The Santa Monica City Council will take a look at a revised work plan that staff hopes will help deal with the 32 development agreement (DA) applications -- up from 26 when the plan was first introduced on December 11 -- in the pipeline.
The most recent version of the plan, originally on the Council's December 11 agenda, no longer includes the option of an ordinance that would put in place a temporary moratorium on DAs.
“Another potential approach would be for Council to direct staff to return with an ordinance to place a moratorium on the processing of development applications,” staff wrote in the December 11 report.
But the process of passing a moratorium would have been a complicated one.
“In order to impose a moratorium, state law requires both urgency findings and a four-fifths vote, which for a 7-member council means 6 affirmative votes,” according to the December 11 report.
Staff also noted in the report that a moratorium dealing with multi-family housing projects “cannot be extended without findings demonstrating that these projects would have a specific adverse impact on public health and safety based on objective written standards.”
The new plan makes no mention of a possible moratorium.
Instead, the new work plan would require developers -- instead of City staff -- to organize and hold community input meetings on projects.
“One way to reduce the number of meetings required to be coordinated by staff is to shift the responsibility for the community meeting from staff to the applicant,” staff wrote.
The current “practice not only requires staff time for the coordination of the community meeting, it puts staff in a position of representing a project at a time when staff has not yet had an opportunity to formulate a position on the project,” staff wrote.
The new plan would also streamline the float-up process.
The current process lets developers go before the Architectural Review Board (ARB) and the Planning Commission to get feedback on preliminary plans.
Staff would like to see a monthly joint meeting of the ARB and the Planning Commission that would focus entirely on DA applications.
They will also ask the Council to consider how to prioritize DA applications, which are currently reviewed in the order they are submitted.
“The City could establish criteria to encourage higher percentages of affordable housing units, to support educational institution projects, to encourage projects below a certain height, or to encourage projects that have demonstrated through a traffic study and committed through specific measures to reducing traffic impacts,” Staff wrote.
“Moreover, the City could favor those projects that generate the highest ratio of new revenues per traffic generated, such as hotels and auto dealerships,” according to staff.
The number of DAs, which are required for projects that surpass height and area limits set for each of the City's zone, has reached record levels.
The increase is partly due to the decision to handle large developments on a case-by-case basis while the City drafts specific neighborhood plans that could set more rigid height limits.
Of the 32 DAs pending, 17 of them are for developments Downtown, including the controversial Miramar Hotel Redevelopment project, that would add as many as 120 condominiums in three new buildings replacing the two main buildings currently on the site.
Hines project at the Papermate site, a 767,000-square-foot mixed-use project near the future Bergamot Station lightrail stop, is also on the list.
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