Goes with Ten-foot Bonus
By Jorge Casuso
July 24 – A divided City Council on Tuesday gave
the initial nod to buildings that can stand between 45 and 75 feet
in select stretches of the city’s boulevards by giving developers
10-foot height “bonuses” in exchange for “public
The long-anticipated vote – which calls for a study of the
environmental impacts such buildings would have – is the first
concrete vote on the Land Use and Circulation Element of the General
Plan that has been slowly taking shape over nearly four years.
The slim majority comprised of Mayor Herb Katz, Mayor Pro Tem Richard
Bloom and Council members Bob Holbrook and Pam O’Connor argued
that by providing developers with ten-foot height bonuses, and 20-foot
bonuses in select areas, the community could gain important benefits.
“We get to choose the public benefits,” Holbrook said.
“If the public benefits are so exceptional, we can add a fifth
The council’s proposal would allow developers of buildings
in certain parts of the city to add as many as two stories above
the “baseline” in exchange for providing “community
benefits,” such as affordable and workforce housing, childcare,
parks and plazas, community rooms and traffic-fighting measures.
The prevailing council members urged their colleagues to move ahead
by voting to conduct an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) that includes
the proposed heights.
“We can continue to talk about what we don’t want,”
said O’Connor. “And we never get to talk about what
we want to make it a better community.”
But the three dissenting Council members – Ken Genser, Kevin
McKeown and Bobby Shriver – felt the bonuses would result
in buildings that were too tall for the beachside city.
“There’s a lot of sensitivity in this community about
heights,” Shriver said.
“We’re certainly increasing density by a significant
amount,” Genser said.
The bonuses, Genser argued, “might apply in every instant,
which is not fine,” since they in effect increase the baseline
by at least ten feet.
“Every district is ten feet higher than what we say it is,”
Genser said. “I think we are either fooling ourselves or trying
to fool the public about what the standards we’re considering
Grenser feared that “if they (developers) make the points
(the necessary benefits), they get the building.”
But Holbrook countered that the council would have the discretion
to decide if the benefits warranted giving the height bonus.
“We’re the ones that set the value of the points,”
Holbrook said. “That’s our discretionary power.”
The council, he said, “could set a really high bar. It would
have to be an exceptional project.”
With the 4 to 3 vote, the council directed staff to study the following
heights for select parts of the city, which include “activity
centers” or mini neighborhoods with a mix of uses:
- The Bergamot Station activity center in the city’s industrial
area would be the tallest, reaching 75 feet if the developer provides
a floor of affordable housing.
- The activity center around Wilshire and 14th Street would have
a base of 45 feet, but could reach 65 feet if the developer includes
affordable housing and provides other community benefits.
- The activity center at Ocean Park Boulevard and Lincoln Avenue
(on the current Albertson’s parking lot) could reach 55
feet with community benefits.
- Select parts of Santa Monica Boulevard near the east end of
town, as well as parts of Broadway and most of Colorado Avenue
could have buildings as tall as 45 feet (or one story above the
base) if the developer provides adequate community benefits.
- Buildings on the four-block stretch the east end of Pico Boulevard
on the south side of the street also could reach 45 feet, or one
story above the base.
The council will have some discretion in evaluating benefits, according
“Most are hard to quantify,” said Planner Bruce Leach,
noting that one of the benefits is “preserving historic resources.”
“So there’s going to be some kind of a process to evaluate
In an interview with The Lookout after the meeting Leach predicted
that “90 percent of the projects that get built won’t
have that extra ten feet.”
He also noted that staff would now study the impacts of the proposed
heights, which have not yet been given final approval by council.
“This is just another phase in the study,” Leach said.
“It’s not approving anything.”
On Thursday night, the council will continue hammering out the
proposed heights in other select areas.
The ongoing process to craft the LUCE, which will dictate development
in the city for the next two decades, is the result of numerous
community meetings, nine Planning Commission meetings and half a
dozen council meetings.