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Council Moves to Scale Down Industrial Area

By Jorge Casuso

July 30 -- The City Council last week took steps to scale down development in Santa Monica’s industrial zones, where more than 1,000 small residential units are currently slated to be built.

The move came three days after participants at a community workshop weighed in on the future of the city’s manufacturing and light manufacturing and studio districts, which make up one of the last areas in Santa Monica slated for development. (see story)

Under the council’s unanimous direction, staff will return with an ordinance that would limit development to 7,500 square feet and 15 units on larger lots, and 7,500 square feet and five units on smaller lots in the manufacturing district.

“The character of these districts could just be changed,” said Council member Pam O’Connor. “These are really critical decisions. . . if we become a bedroom community or remain the city we have been.”

“If this thing gets botched, it will be a real mess for a long time,” said Council member Bobby Shriver. “There’s a tidal wave of money flooding our area.”

Council member Ken Genser urged even tighter building restrictions for the once-thriving thriving industrial area, which in the past two decades has become a Mecca for media companies and high-end offices.

“We want to implement meaningful zoning without hurting small developers,” said Genser, whose motion to limit development to 5,000 square feet and eight units failed.

Before the vote, community activists urged the council to impose a building moratorium until the City finishes updating the Land Use and Circulation Element (LUCE) of the General Plan, which will dictate development for decades to come.

“I don’t consider Santa Monica a city, and I don’t like the New Yorkization of Santa Monica,” said Susan Harley, a member of the board of Friends of Sunset Park. “I don’t like all the canyons going up. . . and the apartments and the condos. I’m for putting a halt to this.”

The council’s action comes several months after NMS Properties submitted plans to build some 1,000 single-room units in the industrial corridor, bounded by Centinela Avenue, the 10 Freeway, Lincoln Boulevard and Colorado Avenue.

While the five proposed buildings abide by the letter of a new law to encourage affordable housing, City officials worry they will bypass public and environmental review, are not required to provide much parking and open space and don’t address a critical shortage of affordable family housing.

In April, the council rushed through an emergency ordinance to dramatically slow permitting for the projects, which take advantage of height and density bonuses. (see story)

The ordinance -- which the developer will likely challenge in court -- require that the projects undergo a potentially lengthy and costly public process.

Santa Monica residents urged the council to do everything to halt the housing boom.

“Putting 300 people where there used to be 30 people does not help Santa Monica,” said one member of the public who testified Tuesday. “It’s not Santa Monica. It’s not what the people want.”

Tuesday’s vote comes at a time when City planners and members of the community are forging a “vision” for the industrial areas that will be codified in the General Plan, which has not been updated in a quarter century.

At a five-hour workshop July 21, participants hammered out a vision for the “Industrial Lands” that included affordable workforce housing, sustainable transportation, public parks and landscaping and a thriving arts and entertainment sector.

“Whatever goes in there will be there for 50 years or longer,” Council member Bob Holbrook said at the council meeting last week. “So we’ve got to get it right.”


“If this thing gets botched, it will be a real mess for a long time.” Bobby Shriver


“Putting 300 people where there used to be 30 people does not help Santa Monica.” Santa Monica resident


“Whatever goes in there will be there for 50 years or longer. So we’ve got to get it right.”Bob Holbrook


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