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Convention and Visitors Bureau Santa Monica

By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

November 8, 2016 -- Eight days after Santa Monica voters go to the polls, a bitter fight over future development in downtown that helped inspire the most controversial issue in the local election -- slow-growth Measure LV -- is back before City planners.

The City Planning Commission next Wednesday will delve into an analysis that finds that 3.22 million square feet of new floor space could be built downtown through 2030 without exceeding the City’s goal of creating no net increases in peak evening rush-hour trips.

A final decision on the Downtown Community Plan (DCP) was delayed in March after more than six years in the works ("Vote on Santa Monica Downtown Plan Delayed Yet Again," March 31, 2016).

City officials said the DCP was put on hold to try to reach consensus with slow-growth critics.

Critics said the City was stalling until after the election, which includes four seats on the City Council and LV, the initiative that asks city voters -- not the City Council -- to decide the fate of most projects taller than 32 feet, or every project currently being proposed for downtown.

City officials say the DCP properly embodies the 2010 overhaul of land-use guidelines, which call for more multi-family buildings to address a worsening housing shortage and create an urban landscape that's friendlier to people than cars.

Slow-growth groups like Residocracy (which authored Measure LV) say the DCP allows too much growth and will generate too much traffic, jeopardizing what is left of Santa Monica’s distinctly Southern California beach town charm.

A report for the Planning Commission’s meeting says that about 20 percent of downtown is considered to have the “potential” for change, including the projects now crowding the City’s current development pipeline.

A handful of the proposed projects are likely to be withdrawn, but most are awaiting a final decision on the DCP ("Nearly 3.8 Million Square Feet Await Approval in Santa Monica's Jammed Development Pipeline," November 3, 2016).

Of the 39 proposed projects in the City’s development pipeline, 18 are in downtown, totaling nearly two million square feet in new building, according to the tracking list compiled by the City Planning and Community Development Department.

The hree most prominent projects are a trio of high-rise hotels near the oceanfront downtown, one of which would become Santa Monica’s tallest building at 320 feet if the proposal is approved.

Also in the planning pipeline is a proposed 12-story “mixed-use” plaza downtown that encompasses approximately 2.3 acres owned by the City.

Most of the other projects downtown are “mixed use” apartment buildings, or complexes with commercial space on the ground floor and apartments above.

For two decades, the City has been encouraging the construction of multi-family housing in the City’s Central Business District, arguing that despite increasing density, constructing housing close to services and transportation hubs makes environmental sense.

A 2012 study by RCLCO Real Estate Advisors found downtown Santa Monica had the potential to add as many as 2,500 new residential units, 200,000 square feet more of regional retail space, 58,000 square feet of local retail/office space and 1,500 hotel rooms.

A final vote by the City Council on the DCP, which is now in draft form, is not expected until the spring.

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