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Santa Monica Council Approves Measures to Spur New Housing
 

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By Jorge Casuso

August 26, 2020 -- In an effort to tackle a statewide housing crisis, the City Council on Tuesday barred Santa Monica housing units from being rented for commercial use and fast-tracked new affordable housing Downtown.

The Council also voted not to require development agreements (DA) for large projects near the Downtown Expo line and green-lighted accessory units commonly known as "granny flats" regardless of lot size.

“With these housing measures, Santa Monica continues its pathbreaking work to preserve precious housing stock for residents and eliminate barriers to creating new housing, particularly affordable housing in our community,” Interim City Manager Lane Dilg said in a statement Wednesday.

“These steps move us closer to meeting local and regional housing goals in anticipation of preparation of our Housing Element next year,” Dilg said, referring to the blueprint that will guide all future development in the city.

A State-mandated goal requires Santa Monica to build 8,874 new housing units, two-thirds of them affordable, over the next eight years ("City Council Begins Clearing Path for Nearly 9,000 New Housing Units," March 12, 2020).

Under an ordinance approved by the Council Tuesday, housing projects solely dedicated to affordable units will "receive a maximum bonus of 80 percent or no density cap if the project is within a half-mile of a major transit stop, and up to three additional stories or 33 feet."

One-hundred percent affordable housing projects and smaller market-rate housing projects will continue to be fast tracked with an administrative approval, as opposed to a Development Review Permit process.

"The streamlined approval process paired with the density bonuses available under state law are intended to help spur affordable housing production in the city," officials said.

The Council also made changes to the Downtown Community Plan (DCP) that streamline the development process for housing projects larger than 90,000 square feet that are adjacent to downtown’s transit hub.

The changes do not affect development standards such as building height and floor area ratio or requirements for affordable housing production, officials said.

Requirements for the "Established Large Sites" -- where three 130-foot tall mixed-use hotel projects are in the planning pipeline -- are not impacted by the changes.

The Council also revised the definition of a housing project "to allow greater flexibility in the location of commercial uses within the first and second floors of a housing project," officials said.

"To encourage housing near the Metro downtown terminus, we’ve offered a meaningful assurance that Santa Monica does want affordable housing and won’t let overly long process stand in the way of getting families housed,” said Mayor Kevin McKeown.

In an effort to preserve housing for permanent residents, the Council on Tuesday approved an ordinance requiring leases of at least one year and barred renting housing units furnished.

It also stipulated that all rental housing in the City is for “natural persons as their primary residence,” a definition that bars the units from being rented as corporate housing.

Those who violate the ordinance will be subject to fines and penalties, City officials said.

“Housing activists presented a compelling case for prohibiting commercial uses of Santa Monica housing that were displacing real residents, and the Council set clear rules that end the abuses," McKeown said.

"With no more rentals to corporations, and no more short-term furnished leases, the Council took a definitive stand that Santa Monica housing is for people and for building community.”

In a separate action, the Council exempted accessory dwelling units (ADU) from parcel coverage or floor area calculations.

Under the new ordinance, a studio/1-bedroom ADU can be up to 850 square feet and a two-bedroom or more ADU can now be up to 1,000 square feet with larger parcels eligible for a 1,200 square foot ADU.

Junior Accessory Dwelling Units are allowed up to 500 square feet, officials said.


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