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Planning Commission to Discuss Putting Santa Monica Zoning Update on Hold

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark
By Jason Islas
Staff Writer

April 1 , 2013 -- The Planning Commission will decide Wednesday whether to recommend putting adoption of Santa Monica's Zoning Ordinance update for a year to allow for more public comment.

Citing a need for a more robust public input on the parking standards in the proposed Zoning Ordinance update, Planning Commissioner Richard McKinnon is pushing to postpone the update for a year and to change the designation of Montana Avenue from a “transit-oriented” zone to a “special district.”

“We need to take a pause in the residential zones and spend some time on it before we make any changes to the zoning,” McKinnon said. “No one's happy with parking at the moment.”

McKinnon said that he placed the item on the agenda because he thought more discussion about how to deal with parking in the Zoning Ordinance update required more public input.

He also believes that Montana Avenue needs to be redesignated because he doesn't believe it's a transit oriented zone, which, as far as the Land Use and Circulation Element is concerned means mixed-use developments and laxer parking requirements for certain types of businesses.

“I think that someone was mistaken when they used that terminology,” said Albin Gielicz, Chair of the North of Montana Association.

“It is a special part of town that evokes a lot of passion among the people who live nearby it,” he said.

Traffic Consultant Jeffery Tumlin, who was recently dismissed by the City over comments made on his resume, advocated for reduced parking requirements along Montana Avenue.

“There's still a lot of public input to come,” said Community and Strategic Planning Manager Francie Stefan, adding that the process has been transparent and will continue to be as it moves forward.

The official timeline for the draft Zoning Ordinance update is still not yet concrete.

“There's a lot of pieces to it and it's hard for us to predict,” Stefan said.

Still, once the draft Zoning Ordinance Update comes out, likely later this year, there will continue to be room for public input.

“That's the purpose for having a draft for public comment,” she said. “We view the draft release as an opportunity for the public to see the entire picture and provide comments back.”

Gielicz believes that more discussion could help assuage residents' concerns, but worries that delaying the Zoning Ordinance update further could delay “closure” on the question of 35 development agreements (DAs) currently being negotiated with the City.

DAs allow developers to build beyond current zoning restrictions in exchange for community benefits, however, once the new Zoning Ordinance update is passed, the standards it sets for 96 percent of Santa Monica could not be surpassed.

The standards in the Bergamot Area and Downtown will be established by the two area plans.

Any decision the Planning Commission makes Wednesday will go to the Council, which has the final say, as a recommendation.

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