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Council to Tackle Major Development, Key Planning Appointments

By Jorge Casuso

August 14 -- The shape of a major development across from City Hall and the future makeup of the Planning Commission could be determined Tuesday night, when the City Council tackles the Civic Center Village project and three open seats on one of Santa Monica’s most powerful boards.

The proposal to build 325 residential units at the Civic Center will return to the council two months after angry slow-growth activists denounced the tall cluster of buildings slated for land the City purchased from RAND nearly a decade ago.

The developer, Related Companies of California, will present a revised plan that increases the height of a proposed residential building next to the Viceroy Hotel on the corner of Pico Boulevard and Main Street in order to scale down the complexes clustered near Olympic Boulevard.

“The proposal makes the Viceroy side taller, and the others more airy,” said Joan Ling, executive director of Community Corporation, which is partnering with Related to develop and manage the 160 affordable units proposed for the site.

In addition to adding pathways and making the development “less solid, the new proposal eliminates the building overhangs council members worried made the development seem more looming and oppressive.

The public testimony at the June 19 council meeting pitted City officials -- including the Planning and Housing commissions and the Architectural Review Board -- who enthusiastically endorse the proposed project, and activists who have called for a halt to all major development until the City finishes updating its General Plan.

The three Planning Commission appointments the council is scheduled to make Tuesday could play a crucial role in the ongoing effort to update to the City’s Land Use and Circulation Element (LUCE) of the General Plan, which will be the new blueprint for how Santa Monica will develop over the next two decades.

With council members missing during the summer sessions -- including a meeting that had to be cancelled for lack of a quorum -- the long-awaited appointments have been help up for months.

The appointments come after a major sea change that saw the commission shift from one controlled by slow-growth activists, to one that is more moderate when it comes to growth and more development friendly.

While Terry O’Day is expected to be reappointed to a second term, Commissioner Darrell Clarke -- who chaired the old slow-growth commission – is unlikely to win an unusual bid for a third four-year term, which requires five council votes.

So far, at least two council members have privately said they will not vote to grant Clarke a third term, and two others are unlikely to back his bid.

That would leave two open seats and a field of strong candidates that includes two members of Santa Monica’s Sustainable City Task Force -- Dennis Woods and Jim Ries -- and Gleam Davis, a well-known education activist who has run for the School Board and City Council.







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