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Council Set to Pass Emergency Ordinance for Industrial Lands

By Anita Varghese
Staff Writer

August 27 -- The City Council is poised to adopt an emergency interim ordinance Tuesday to require development agreements for large projects in Santa Monica's industrial corridor.

If Council members approve staff recommendations, development agreements would be required for all projects that contain more than 7,500 square feet of floor area or more than 15 housing, artist studio or single room occupancy units.

Development agreements would also be required for changes in land use on parcels that exceed 32,000 square feet in the Light Manufacturing and Studio District (LMSD) and 15,000 square feet in the the Industrial Conservation District (M1).

The proposed interim ordinance is designed to address concerns about the type, use and scale of development projects currently underway in the manufacturing and industrial districts, also known as the “Industrial Lands,” plus concerns about the lack of public infrastructure in the roughly 400-acre area.

“The area has neither the physical layout nor the public infrastructure in terms of streets, sidewalks, open space and other amenities appropriate for people who live and work there,” said Eileen Fogarty, director of Planning and Community Development, in a staff report.

“It was never intended to develop in piecemeal fashion into large, unplanned, unbroken blocks of dense multi-unit residential buildings without necessary infrastructure and amenities.”

Current zoning ordinances are intended to preserve the area’s existing light industrial uses, encourage low-impact entertainment industry facilities and encourage creative arts/arts supportive uses.

However, various development proposals featuring a total of more than 1,000 multi-family housing units are pending approval in or adjacent to the Industrial Lands.

City planners believe these proposals are technically consistent with current zoning ordinances, but they violate the original intent of the ordinances and violate the direction Santa Monica residents are going in the Land Use and Circulation Element (LUCE) public input process.

At a July Industrial Lands workshop, the majority of participants said they desire an environment where opportunities for industrial uses and businesses are preserved, light rail potential is maximized, workforce housing is placed in strategic locations and pedestrian/bicycle/public transit access is connected in neighborly fashion to the rest of the city.

For some residents, an emergency interim ordinance for the Industrial Lands does not accomplish as much as a citywide moratorium on large development projects until LUCE draft plans are tentatively scheduled for a spring 2008 presentation.

“This is like spot zoning to block some projects in some areas, but not citywide, which is what the state law on development moratoriums envisions and what residents have said they want until LUCE is near being complete,” said resident Art Harris.

“I’m not against development. Developers are people too, just like everyone else, and this interim ordinance is not fair to those who have plans for projects in only one part of the city.”

California law gives local governments the right to adopt development moratoriums until land use and circulation updates are completed.

The emergency interim ordinance focuses on the Industrial Lands because City planners believe the area serves as a vital economic engine for Santa Monica and is a site for opportunities to enhance quality of life for residents through a variety of means.

Development agreements are made between developers and the City to ensure that projects that exceed specified zoning thresholds can still be built, provided that developers agree to a list of public benefits the City determines to be reasonable given the size and scale of the project.

Staff said development agreements are superior to development review processes because negotiated agreements can be approved consistent with community and City Council desires.

The City also has the flexibility to define and shape projects on a case by case basis as well as ensure that large projects do not undermine LUCE public input efforts currently in progress.

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