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LUCE Won't Fix Santa Monica's Housing Imbalance, Neighborhood Activist Says

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark

By Jason Islas
Staff Writer

May 7, 2013 -- Valerie Griffin, the former chair of the Wilmont Neighborhood Coalition, released an analysis of Santa Monica's Land Use and Circulation Element Wednesday that claims the plan fails to address the City's jobs-housing imbalance, especially in the Bergamot Area.

Griffin, who has spent years as a data analyst, argues that the LUCE's goals for development over the next 20 years fail to support the housing needed for the city’s growing workforce, an imbalance some residents believe contributes to Santa Monica's traffic woes.

“Because the LUCE stipulates the outcome in terms of square footage of the types of development... the goals are unclear in the document,” Griffin said.

Within the Bergamot Area, which along with Downtown is one of two areas in the city where the LUCE encourages development of housing and office space, the goals for housing-to-jobs ratio ranges from 40/60 to 50/50.

But Griffin argues that using square footage is misguided because there are far fewer residents per square foot than there are workers in commercial buildings.

“At the February 12, 2013 meeting of the City Council meeting, it was suggested that the minimum average gross square footage per household in the Bergamot Area would be 900 square feet,” Griffin wrote in her May 1 report.

“Older, now obsolete, office space utilization was approximately 300 square feet per on-site worker,” she wrote. “Current creative office space allocation is approximately 75-100 square feet per on-site worker.”

Griffin is calling for the goals to be expressed not in square footage but in terms of how many workers would be required per square footage of non-residential development.

Senior Planner Peter James said that is largely due to companies maximizing communal workspace within the office environment. “It's true that workers' spaces are densifying,” he said. “Many companies redesign their space to maximize common space.”

Planning Director David Martin said he had not yet read Griffin's report but believes that there will be plenty of housing created under the LUCE. “Eighty percent of what's proposed is residential,” he said. “What we're not seeing is office development.”

Though she had also not yet seen Griffin's report, Special Projects Manager Jing Yeo said that population projections had been undertaken as part of the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the LUCE.

As far as how workers impact the traffic within in the city, the question is a regional one, Yeo said. The LUCE -- and especially the Bergamot Area Plan -- creates the opportunity for people to live within biking or walking distance of their work, she added.

Still, Griffin is concerned that the current numbers wouldn't lead to a balance between jobs and housing.

Not only would the goals in the LUCE not address the current jobs-housing imbalance, “it would exacerbate it considerably,” she predicted.

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