June 19, 2007

SMCLC Urges Planning Commission to Recommend Building Moratorium

Text of Press Release

At the urging of SMCLC, neighborhood groups throughout the city have joined together with SMCLC to ask the Planning Commission at its upcoming June 20th session to recommend a building moratorium for Santa Monica until the LUCE update is completed and a new General Plan is approved by the city council.

"Residents have spoken time and time again over the past 3 years of the LUCE process about their vision for our city, and it does not include the unprecedented growth the city sustained over the past 23 years. Meanwhile, without an updated plan, development projects throughout the city are steamrolling ahead. It's time now for our city to put the brakes on what is essentially unplanned development, until it finishes our General Plan so that all of the good efforts put into the LUCE process are not frustrated by all of this interim development" says SMCLC co-chair Diana Gordon.

Santa Monica'a General Plan is over 23 years old and won't be updated until 2009 at the earliest. The updated General Plan will determine just how much growth and traffic the city can realistically sustain.

SM Daily Press coverage pdf download
Santa Monica Dispatch June 19, 2007 Entry: Residents Call for Building Moratorium
Santa Monica Dispatch June 23 2007 Entry: Op-Ed / Why is City Stalling
Santa Monica Dispatch July 10, 2007 Entry: OP-Ed / City Hall Vamps

Text of Letter to the Santa Monica Planning Commission

Dear Planning Commissioners,

Thank you for putting this vital public issue on your agenda. SMCLC and all of the neighborhood groups are encouraged by the new direction the LUCE revisions have taken under the stewardship of Eileen Fogarty, and are appreciative of her sensitivity to community goals and dedication to public outreach.

At the same time, however, all of us have become increasingly concerned about the continuing development pressure that is occurring in Santa Monica while our long-delayed LUCE process is ongoing. Under the city's present schedule our General Plan update will be completed --- at the earliest in 2009 --- 25 years after the 1984 General Plan was adopted. Since the State mandates that cities must update their General Plans every 20 years, Santa Monica is on target to be out of compliance, without an approved General Plan, for a full 5 years. Much of the development we see taking place now was not anticipated in 1984, rendering the General Plan outdated and largely irrelevant.

Meanwhile, we see our city currently approving project after project without taking into account all of the building that has gone on in the 23 years since the 1984 General Plan adoption, all of the current building going on throughout our city, or all of the permits which have been or will be filed over the next 2 years. See, e.g., the city's 6/07 current projects list which lists 27 condo projects, 3 large SRO projects totaling 896 units, and a commercial project exceeding 25,000 square feet on Wilshire.

All of this development pressure could make the General Plan update irrelevant.

We are especially concerned about the future of the LMSD which is our last substantial opportunity to shape land-use policy for public benefit.

On June 1st, SMCLC and leaders of FOSP, NOMA, OPA, PNA, and Wilmont met with the City Manager, City Planning Director, and City Attorney to discuss a building moratorium under California Government Code 65858 pending completion of our General Plan update. We invited the City to work with all of us on crafting appropriate exemptions to a building moratorium, such as for affordable housing projects of a certain size and single-family residential projects. The City is looking at this issue and has agreed to respond to us with its position in the near future.

Fortunately, state law permits a city like Santa Monica to impose a building moratorium for up to 2 years while it revises its General Plan, precisely so that developments which would NOT be built under the revised plan are NOT approved in the interim. Such a moratorium also frees up valuable staff resources in order to do the comprehensive update that the law requires for land-use changes and for circulation and other infrastructure constraints and compatibility. In our case, three critical elements are being updated ˆ land-use, circulation, and housing.

Recently, the city of West Hollywood unanimously adopted an emergency interim ordinance to halt approvals of luxury housing projects that replace sound housing stock while it revises its 1988 housing element. The practice of replacing existing market rate units with a lesser number of larger, high-priced luxury units was eroding the city's supply of middle income housing and was at odds with its own housing replacement goals and state mandates. We believe that these same development pressures exist in Santa Monica, causing the loss of long-time, "rooted" residents who are unable to find other suitably priced housing.

We recognize that a moratorium should not prohibit all development. Possible project exemptions we raised with the city could include: single family residential and such multi-family residential housing and/or affordable housing projects that are exempt by law from a building moratorium.

What is imperative is that we free up the staff resources to move ahead and complete the General Plan revisions as soon as we can, and that we ensure that all interim development not be at odds with that update and with residents' targeted goals of scale and size for Santa Monica.

We ask you to work with us now to urge the City Council to agree to a moratorium under Government Code 65858 that will accomplish these goals and to give it the same urgency that you did when Prop. 90 threatened our land- use process.


The Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City (SMCLC)
Friends of Sunset Park Board of Directors (FOSP)
North of Montana Association Board of Directors (NOMA)
Ocean Park Association Board of Directors (OPA)
The Wilshire-Montana Neighborhood Coalition Board of Directors (Wilmont)