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Housing/Commercial Ratio Debated at LUCE Hearing  
By Jonathan Friedman
Lookout Staff

June 28, 2010 -- The City Council majority on Thursday settled on a compromised targeted amount of commercial and residential development for the Mixed Use Creative District, an area on the east end of Santa Monica where much of the local development will take place during the next 20 years. This occurred during a hearing on the draft update to the Land Use & Circulation Element (LUCE) of the City’s General Plan, a document that will serve as a guide for development in Santa Monica.

The council voted for a goal of making development in the district 50 percent commercial and 50 percent residential, with the flexibility to go up to five percentage points in either direction for both kinds of development. This does not mean individual developments will feature this ratio, but rather it is a goal for the district as a whole.

City staff proposed the area be split 60 percent commercial and 40 percent residential. The Planning Commission recommended a 50-50 split. City Council member Kevin McKeown on Thursday proposed 60 percent residential and Council member Robert Holbrook said he wanted something closer to 60 percent commercial.

“I would prefer something that’s more of a compromise,” said Council member Richard Bloom, who added, “We should treat these as targets and not absolutes.”

Mayor Bobby Shriver, Mayor Pro Tem Pam O’Connor and Council members Gleam Davis and Terry O’Day voted with Bloom. Holbrook and Kevin McKeown voted against the concept.

“We need jobs there too,” Holbrook said in his defense for more commercial development.

McKeown, who voted against the measure for the opposite reason of Holbrook, said “The choice before this council is whether we’re producing enough housing or too much commercial. And I feel a split favoring housing is more appropriate.”

Eileen Fogarty, Santa Monica’s director of Planning and Community Development, said she would not recommend McKeown’s figure. Fogarty did not specify if she felt the council’s compromised numbers were sufficient.

“The real concern with housing is a great thing,” Fogarty said. ”But there is a tipping point with housing. And if you bring in enough housing, you wind up with limiting other uses. Housing tends to take over areas when the housing market is good. From that perspective we would not recommend a 20 percent shift (from the staff recommendation).”

For the neighboring Bergamot Transit Village District, which surrounds the future Expo light rail station at Bergamot Station and also has major developments proposed for it, the council unanimously voted for the staff recommendation of 60 percent commercial development and 40 percent residential.

These votes are not final, but rather endorsements of concepts. On July 6, the council will vote on the entire LUCE as well as the environmental impact report for the document.

The ratio for residential and commercial development has been a major topic in Santa Monica for some time. There are many who believe this city lacks the appropriate amount of housing compared to how many jobs there are in this city. This means too many people must make the drive in and out of Santa Monica every day, causing traffic congestion.

Another issue the council approached on Thursday involved the trailer park located at the corner of Stanford Street and Stewart Avenue. It is slated for inclusion in the Mixed Use Creative District. The owner of the property, Village Trailer Park LLC, has proposed closing the trailer park and building a 353,000-square-foot mixed-use development on the property. Several trailer park residents asked the council to do something to protect their homes.

McKeown proposed that all areas zoned specifically for residential be removed from the Mixed Use Creative District, an action that would only apply to the trailer park. He said to keep the trailer park in the mixed-use district where it would be at risk of ceasing to exist would go against the “prime directive of the LUCE … that we want neighborhoods preserved.”

Most of the other council members were hesitant to support this because the issue had not been fully discussed and was not on the agenda for that meeting.

“There is some possibility that given a broader and longer discussion, I might support (McKeown’s concept),” Bloom said. “The fact of the matter is this only applies to one parcel. It’s a parcel that the City has been in litigation on. There’s a development agreement that’s moving forward. So there’s a lot of context that we’re not discussing tonight.”

The voting result for McKeown’s proposal was a stalemate with Davis and O’Day supporting McKeown and O’Connor and Shriver siding with Bloom. Holbrook abstained. Because of the tie, the trailer park will remain in the mixed-use district, unless at least one council member changes his or her vote at the July 6 meeting.

The council will meet again on the LUCE on Thursday.


“I would prefer something that’s more of a compromise. We should treat these as targets and not absolutes.”
     Council member,
     Richard Bloom


“The choice before this council is whether we’re producing enough housing or too much commercial and I feel a split favoring housing is more appropriate." 
     Council member,
     Kevin McKeown


“The real concern with housing is a great thing, but there is a tipping point with housing and if you bring in enough housing, you wind up with limiting other uses.”
Director of Planning
     Eileen Fogarty

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