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Santa Monica Neighborhood Group Wants Moratorium on Development

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark


Harding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP  law firm
Harding, Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

By Jason Islas
Staff Writer

November 5, 2013 -- Members of the Wilmont Neighborhood Coalition at the group’s annual meeting Saturday called for a moratorium on development in Santa Monica.

Members of the group, which represents the well-heeled neighborhood between Wilshire Boulevard and Montana Avenue, voted unanimously for a resolution calling for the City Council to completely halt all consideration of development agreements (DAs) until after the City adopts its Zoning Ordinance Update sometime next year.

"We don't know the date that the Zoning Ordinance would finally become effective," said Wilmont Vice-Chair Reinhard Kargl.

“The lack of clear and solid zoning laws has sparked a developer feeding frenzy and invited all sorts of shady wheeling and dealing,” he said.

The Zoning Ordinance Update is scheduled to go before the Planning Commission in a few weeks where it will be vetted over the course of six meetings, officials have said.

The resolution adopted by Wilmont Saturday also called for the City Council to adopt the new Downtown Specific Plan, which would establish height and density limits in the Downtown, before further considering any DAs.

With more than 30 major development projects in the pipeline, the City is currently facing an unprecedented number of pending DAs.

But it’s unclear how many DAs Wilmont’s proposed moratorium would postpone, since few of those DAs are likely to go before the Council before adoption of the Zoning Ordinance Update or the Downtown Specific Plan.

“What Saturday's vote represents is really a clear ‘no confidence’ vote for City Hall,” Kargl said. “Our members do not trust that City Hall is handling developer agreements in the best interest of Santa Monica residents.”

Wilmont’s current board has made no apologies about its general opposition to what it considers to be over development in Santa Monica.

Last summer, Wilmont was embroiled in a protracted power struggle after members of the group protested the old board’s decision to endorse a $255 million redevelopment plan by the Fairmont-Miramar Hotel. ("Santa Monica Group Holds Elections after Miramar Opponents Pack Meeting," June 9, 2012)

Owners of the hotel, located at the neighborhood’s southwestern most corner, have proposed demolishing two buildings on their property and replacing them with three new ones.

The most recent iteration of the project would include up to 122 luxury condos in a 21-story tower.

In the aftermath of last summer’s fight, much of the old board was replaced by vocal opponents of the Miramar project.

Among those sitting on the current board are included Ivan Perkins, the founder of Santa Monicans for Responsible Growth, and Manju Raman, the general manager of the Huntley Hotel, the Miramar’s neighbor and an active opponent of the redevelopment project. ("Huntley Backed Santa Monica Slow-Growth Group, Document Shows," February 1)

Kargl also joined the board in the wake of last summer's struggle.

In July, the board opted to conducted a survey of registered Wilmont members, eventually tallying about 350 responses. ("Santa Monica Neighborhood Group Conducts Height Survey," July 11)

In the survey, Wilmont members were asked to choose from a list what their biggest concerns were, including adequate parking, over development, crime, homelessness and bike lanes/bike parking.

They were also asked, “Do you feel the quality of life in Santa Monica is better or worse than it was 5 years ago?”

The survey preempted one commissioned by the City Council, which officials hope will gauge residents' position on the controversial issue of just how tall future development should be allowed to go in Santa Monica.

Reinhard said he already knows the answer.

"I don't think that there is any question about it at all," he said. "(Residents) don't want any commercial developments in a residential area."

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