Santa Monica Lookout
B e s t   l o c a l   s o u r c e   f o r   n e w s   a n d   i n f o r m a t i o n

Drought No Excuse to Avoid Developing Housing, Santa Monica Council Members Say

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark

Harding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP  law firm
Harding, Larmore
Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

Santa Monica Convention and Visitors Bureau

Pacific Park, Santa Monica Pier

By Jonathan Friedman
Associate Editor

November 13, 2014 -- With the drought not expected to end anytime soon, water usage is a concern for many people. But this cannot be used as an excuse to avoid building homes, several council members said on Tuesday.

The comments came during a unanimous vote to approve a 32-unit development on Pico Boulevard off 11th Street, which became the first, and likely last housing development approved this year.

“While the drought is incredibly severe and something we all need to have in the forefront of our mind, it can’t become a canard for ‘let’s not build anything,’” Councilmember Gleam Davis said.

Mayor Pam O’Connor, who was re-elected last week to a sixth term on the council despite a massive opposition campaign from those who consider her to be too development friendly, said the population in the area is growing and people must be housed.

Even if Cities claim they can’t do it, Sacramento officials will make them do it, she said.

“If Cities ... say we can’t produce affordable housing, the State will step in to say ‘no, you need to find ways to move those obstacles and that water drought should not be an obstacle to housing production,’” O’Connor said.

She continued, “It is in the State’s interest and … all our interests for us to be able to house our own over the next decade.”

Community activist Tricia Crane, who said she was speaking on behalf of two neighborhood groups, disagreed. 

Crane said if it were determined more water would be used in the new development than had been used at the one on this property prior to its demolition in 2008, then the size of the new project should be reduced or it should be put on hold until the drought ends.

This comparison would be difficult to make because the information was not available, City staff said.

In an effort to focus on smart water use, meters on the proposed property would measure each unit, and not just the entire complex. Each unit would be charged separately for water usage. The exception to this will be the four units restricted to “very low income” residents.

The proposed complex will be approximately 19,000 square feet and range from two to four stories in different portions. Two courtyards are planned as well as “communal roof decks.”  All the units will feature two bedrooms.

Because the project will be 45 feet tall at its highest point, 15 feet higher than allowed by municipal code for a structure of this type, owner Peter Bohlinger must offer so-called “community benefits” as part of a development agreement with the City.

Among the benefits being offered are the four units restricted for “very low income residents,” which is two more than the City’s Affordable Housing Production Program requires. 

Also, 11 units will be designated for rent control.

Bohlinger can set the initial lease rate for the 11 units, but the annual rent increase must be in line with the Consumer Price Index (CPI) or lower until the tenant leaves or is evicted for non-payment of rent. After that, the unit can again be priced in line with the market rate.

Davis said requiring developers to designate units as rent control will not bring more affordable housing to Santa Monica.

“I certainly hope we don’t start using price controls like this … to kid ourselves that that’s affordable housing because it’s not,” she said.

Councilmember Kevin McKeown, who was the top vote-getter in last week’s election, mostly agreed with Davis, but he said there was some benefit to the 11 units being under rent control.

“If you’re a family that moves into one of those units, you’re going to know your rent won’t go up by more than CPI during the time of your tenancy,” he said. “And I think housing stability is a worthwhile goal in this city.”

Following his comment, Davis said that since the initial lease rate for the rent-controlled units would be out of the price range of many families, it would do nothing to help the people in need of affordable housing.

Back to Lookout News copyrightCopyright 1999-2014 All Rights Reserved. EMAIL Disclosures