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City Council Responds to Request to Slow Down Development

The City Council is not going to tap the brakes on development, but it is tweaking how it approaches reviewing development agreement applications.

It said on Tuesday night it wants to give the community more input at the earliest stage of the review process. It also wants to expedite certain types of developments, possibly such as those that are smaller and least likely to create more traffic.

Applications are currently reviewed in the order they were received.

Changing the review process was the request of planning staffers who say they are overwhelmed by an unprecedented number of development agreement applications submitted since the adoption of Santa Monica's long-term planning guide, the Land Use and Circulation Element, in the summer of 2010.

The agreements give developers the rights to build beyond the city's size and zoning restrictions in exchange for providing "community benefits," like money to fund street improvements.

As of Tuesday night, the number of applications stood at 34. In addition to those applications, there are seven for mixed-use projects of fewer than 50 residential units that don't require development agreements and can be approved by staffers (development agreements require City Council approval). 

"There is no question we have seen a lot out of the gate," said city planning director David Martin.

In December, Martin proposed slowing down the process by requiring developers to attend more advisory board and commission meetings. He even suggested the council could enact a moratorium on all development.

But his plan changed this month.

Instead of adding new regulatory hurdles, he asked the council to streamline the process by combining what are currently separate meetings of the Architectural Review Board and Planning Commission. He also dropped his recommendation for a moratorium.

Additionally, he proposed shifting the responsibility for early community meetings about the projects from city staffers to the developers. The current practice, Martin said, "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."

The council agreed. It also said it wanted the meetings to be more productive for residents. Ideas included holding the meetings close to the project sites and filming them for an online archive.

"The residents need to be more involved in early meetings," said councilwoman Gleam Davis. 

In rethinking how it evaluates applications, the council weighed input from the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce and local business community—who contend slowing down development would put the city at a disadvantage—and from neighborhood groups who worry the development is happening too quickly for the impacts to be fully assessed.

"Many of the projects [would] improve the jobs-housing balance in the city," said . consultant Rob York. There's also concern among business owners, he said, "about the overall economy and budget pressure looming in the city" given the loss of the Redevelopment Agency. 

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Brenda Barnes January 10, 2013 at 08:53 AM
It's disgusting how the consultants hired by the City and the developers always say every development is going to give us "more housing," as though that were the answer. Not only do none of them do that. It's just a lie. The housing they give us is luxury housing that does nothing to solve any problem we have, and instead gives us new ones. Worse, every project adds more traffic and more need to spend public money on infrastructure and services. We are always trying to catch up on mistakes these planners made years ago. It is time to fire them all and start over.
Glenn E Grab January 10, 2013 at 06:07 PM
traffic on the Westside is a nightmare, yesterday evening at 6:30, it took almost an hour to get from Overland and National to Fairfax and Melrose...
Fred Alexander January 10, 2013 at 06:41 PM
Welcome to Communist Santa Monica, destroying our beach city one building project at a time.
Marie January 10, 2013 at 06:51 PM
How many of the people charged with making decisions actually care about Santa Monica? What used to be a beautiful seaside community has become a pseudo Coney Island. And when did City council members actually listen to the residents who pay the taxes?
Eddie Greenberg January 11, 2013 at 03:32 AM
If they ever have Marie it was a long time ago! The crooked old dinosaurs fill their pockets from the developers and lie to us so much, that they believe what they say is true. Kevin McKeown is the decent one and that is why he has never been the mayor in his fourteen years on the council. The present mayor is now holding that title for the fourth time. If ever a government needs to be taken back it is this one!
Wendy Frederick January 11, 2013 at 08:48 PM
AMEN TO THAT!!! It's a little to late to STOP developers! These developers have made a mess of downtown Santa Monica. The traffic is such a joke, and it is getting worse! I usually get off at 4th, but actually get off sooner and take side streets to avoid the congestion on 4th Street! All of this is such a nightmare! I am so saddened to watch my beloved city being taken over by money-hungry developers who don't care. I think I've had it!
Dan Charney March 14, 2013 at 08:35 AM
Communist? Are you kidding? This is big money Fred- the opposite of 'for the people' - turning these early meeting over to the developers is like opening the door to the hen house for the fox- "community benefits"- just a good term but not true- all these consultants and developer money but still- the aim is to cleanse this city of it's unwanted- both people and business- LUCE and it's demands were a huge mistake - I have yet to meet a developer that cares about anything but the bottom line- oh maybe- Holiday House in Malibu was- this is such a travesty - Martin and Gould should be packing up their desks- good solid creative city planners should be doing this - not developers-
Dan Charney March 15, 2013 at 11:40 PM
Amen to both- the hands of developers must be pried off the prize and fast=
Glenn E Grab March 16, 2013 at 12:51 AM
talk about overdevelopement....what do think would happen if the anti-airport loonies got their way?.....
Brenda Barnes March 16, 2013 at 01:21 AM
This response to "slow down" development is actually just another ruse of the developers' lapdog Council--O'Connor, Holbrook, O'Day and Davis, aka DLs. They actually just put more in the backroom and less subject to public scrutiny, so there will be less of that annoyingly pesky public input. This does NOT slow down development. The opposite is what it actually does, allow more development without our knowing about it. It's the public hearings and writing staff reports for them that takes up these "planners'" valuable time. All 105 of them can't manage 32 development agreements as long as the public is going to be so interfering as to actually expect answers, and ask follow-up questions when they get the first BS response, which is good enough for such "planners." They and their DL bosses need to be fired and we need to start over. The litmus test has to be these questions: did you live in SM 20 years ago, did you like it, and what would you do to retain the part of its soul we have left.
Glenn E Grab March 16, 2013 at 03:19 PM
these crooks and their unknowing allies, the anti-airport loonies, are playing the developers' game......slow down?.....slow what down?....take a look at the construction that's going on right now...

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