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Santa Monica Moves Toward More Control of Coastal Permitting

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Convention and Visitors Bureau Santa Monica

By Jonathan Friedman
Associate Editor

January 11, 2016 -- For several decades, people with development projects near the Santa Monica coast have needed to go to the California Coastal Commission for final approval in the form of a coastal permit.

This could soon change if the City is successful in updating a two-document package known as the Local Coastal Program (LCP).

A certified LCP, which needs approval from the City Council and the Coastal Commission, would allow most coastal permits to be approved locally.

Santa Monica adopted an LCP in 1992, but the Coastal Commission did not certify it because of disagreements on restrictions to hotels and restaurants among other matters, according to a City staff report.

The LCP includes a Land Use Plan (LUP) and the Implementation Plan, two documents that cover various planning and zoning rules for the Coastal Zone.

The Coastal Zone is a 1.5-square-mile portion of Santa Monica stretching from the Pacific Ocean to Fourth Street (north of Pico Boulevard) and Lincoln Boulevard (south of Pico).

Santa Monica began the LCP update process recently, with an aim to reach certification this time.

The City received a $225,000 grant from the Coastal Commission for the update process, which Senior Planner Elizabeth Bar-El says is an indication the State agency has an interest in it being successful this time.

Bar-El introduced the update process to the Santa Monica Planning Commission on Wednesday, and said the City has its reasons for wanting to do this.

For one, the City wants to be in charge of coastal permitting. Also, although the 1992 LCP was not certified by the Coastal Commission, the 12-member panel and its staff use the LUP as a guide for coastal permitting.

“That document is more and more out of sync with what we are and what we do in Santa Monica today,” Bar-El said.

She noted in the past 25 years the City has implemented various zoning and planning documents and is moving toward being a place that encourages people to use other options than vehicles to move around.

A timeline has been established with a goal to reach certification in May 2017. Several hearings and public outreach programs will take place.

City staff is working closely with Coastal Commission staff because, Bar-El said, City officials “are interested in having an ongoing dialogue so that if their staff is leading us in the right way, they’re in tune with what the [Coastal] Commission wants to do and we will avoid [an unsuccessful outcome].”

Bar-El said one disagreement is that the public access-focused Coastal Commission wants more parking spaces next to the beach, something not in line with the City's focus on non-automobile options.

“It’s going to be our job to put together a case how light rail, better pedestrian amenities [and] bike share [are options], not that 1,000 people need 1,000 parking spaces,” she said.

Even if the City is successful with the LCP process this time, the Coastal Commission would remain in control of coastal permits for projects in tidelands, submerged lands and public trust lands.

Also, certain coastal permits approved at the City level could be appealed to the Coastal Commission.


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