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Residents Believe LUCE is a Lost Cause

By Anita Varghese
Staff Writer

August 22 -- Santa Monica residents are beginning to question the benefits of the City’s development-related public input process one week after the City Council gave its conceptual approval for the Civic Center Village and the Planning Commission recommended negotiations begin to redevelop Village Trailer Park.

Residents say the City should place a moratorium on new development projects until the Land Use and Circulation Elements (LUCE) public input process is complete and guidelines are prepared for the Planning Commission and City Council to review.

Estimates as to when the LUCE process may enter its final stages range from two to five years.

“The developers are doing their best to get ahead of the LUCE process,” said Ellen Brennan, a Santa Monica resident who is a vocal supporter of a moratorium. “It is the nature of developers to get their projects done ahead of any restrictions that may be in LUCE.”

Brennan is not alone. Representatives from the Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City (SMCLC), Friends of Sunset Park, North of Montana Association, Ocean Park Association, Pico Neighborhood Association and Wilshire Montana Neighborhood Association recently met with City officials to discuss a building moratorium.

Santa Monica City Map

The community activists allege the City is approving projects based on an outdated General Plan which does not take into account all of the building that has gone on in the 23 years since its adoption, all of the current building going on throughout Santa Monica or all of the permits which have been filed or will be filed in the next two years.

SMCLC Steering Committee member Diana Gordon said the City has also not adequately updated its population estimate, which has an important impact on LUCE guidelines.

“One of the issues for the General Plan revision is how much our community should grow,” Gordon said. “The City asserts that Santa Monica’s population has declined and/or remained the same when viewed over the past 20 years. (see latest census data)

“But that ignores the new and significant population increase that has occurred since the 2000 census,” Gordon said. “The City has not updated its population estimates for 2006 or 2007, notwithstanding all of the condo and mixed-use projects approved in the past 18 months that have brought more residents to Santa Monica.”

The coalition has filed two Public Records Requests with the city after informal emails to obtain information fell on deaf ears, Gordon said.

Information the coalition is seeking includes “specific traffic congestion and calibration data,” new development agreements and monitoring of all development agreements and demolition permits approved over the past 2 1/2 years, according to coalition officials.

Coalition officials also are seeking information on all of the residential and commercial development that has occurred since 2004, when they say a new General Plan should have been enacted.

Calls made to the Planning and Community Development Department and the City Manager’s Office were not returned Tuesday.

Land use and circulation are two key components of Santa Monica’s General Plan, a document that addresses issues related to the physical development, growth and conservation of City resources.

The two elements were last updated in 1984. City officials believe now is the time to revisit policies that would frame the City’s land use, urban design and transportation vision for the next 20 years.

For two years, the council, Planning Commission and Planning and Community Development Department have been holding public hearings and workshops to gather input from the public on a long list of land use and circulation issues.

Many residents say they have stopped attending these meetings and workshops because they believe public input is futile if large-scale development projects keep moving forward under zoning ordinances established nearly a quarter century ago.

By the time the City Council votes for new LUCE guidelines, some areas of Santa Monica will be developed with the types of density and height that residents repeatedly condemn, advocates of a moratorium said.

They point to the Civic Center Village concept plan, which was recently approved by the council and consists of 325 residential units, with one of the condominium buildings rising to 96 feet.

Redevelopment plans for the Village Trailer Park include 240 market-rate condominiums and a 109-unit rent-controlled Single Room Occupancy (SRO) apartment building.

The City Planning Division’s current projects list is available at http://santa-monica.org/planning/planningcomm/currentprojectsplanning.html

 

“The developers are doing their best to get ahead of the LUCE process.” Ellen Brennan

 

“The City has not updated its population estimates for 2006 or 2007, notwithstanding all of the condo and mixed-use projects approved in the past 18 months that have brought more residents to Santa Monica.” Diana Gordon

 

 

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