April 24, 2007
This letter sent to City Council regarding item 7D on the April 24th 2007 agenda
(see below for Council action)

SMCLC Supports Review Process for Large SRO Projects

Dear City Council members:

You now have before you a proposal to adopt an emergency ordinance to require development review and/or conditional use review of single room occupancy housing (SRO) projects of (a) 40 units or 15,000 square feet throughout the city; and (b) developments of 7500 square feet and/or a change in use in the Light Manufacturing and Studio District (LMSD).

SMCLC supports affordable housing and workforce housing and is concerned that the lack of reviewed public input will erode support for it. Because we support such housing, we are concerned that if local residents are not allowed meaningful input into these developments, our city runs the risk that residents will come to view these projects as one more way in which developers are unfairly favored over residents.

Therefore, SMCLC strongly supports full public review in both cases and urges the council to adopt alternatives 1 and 2 to the staff report, which would require the greatest level of public review and planning evaluation for all such projects, regardless of size, location, or intended occupants for the following reasons:

Proposed SRO developments, by their very nature, are dense developments in mass, scope, and size, which impose significant neighborhood impacts. Public review is important so that these developments, involving single units of as few as 300 square feet, are consistent with LUCE, and the goals residents' have repeatedly expressed during the LUCE update process.  Those residents' goals include appropriate scale; mitigation of traffic impacts; and careful consideration of the cumulative impacts of all such development.  Public review is also important so that residents (1) have confidence in the planning process; (2) understand what goals are being met; (3) have full disclosure of all of the possible tradeoffs of such a project, e.g., size, scale, use (including neighborhood serving businesses), location, traffic, parking, environmental; and (4) have a meaningful opportunity to have their concerns heard and addressed.  Regardless of how these units are characterized or marketed (e.g., "work force" or "moderate income") they should be subject to full public review. 

Additionally, SMCLC believes that the 40 unit/ 15,000 square foot threshold is too high. All SRO projects should require a development review permit, and a conditional use permit, if there is a proposed change in use, so that additional specific findings must be made as to the compatibility of the project with its surrounding neighborhood, other land uses, and the public interest.  This is alternative 2 to the staff report and we urge you to adopt it.

We all know that our LSMD is really the only large developable area with sizeable land parcels left in Santa Monica. As the staff report indicates, this is the area that is currently experiencing serious development pressure.  There are competing goals over how much to build, what to build, what businesses and uses should stay, and what growth we should leave for the future. Overdevelopment, incompatible development, and poorly conceived projects are of great concern here.  SMCLC believes that all development in the LSMD should be subject to the highest level of public review and planning evaluation.  We therefore support alternative 1 to the staff report and urge you to adopt it.

Finally we urge you not to delay in adopting this emergency ordinance so that the community goals for projects in the LMSD and for SROs throughout the city will be realized both in the short term and in the implemented LUCE revisions.

Victor Fresco
Diana Gordon
Sherrill Kushner
Jeff Segal
Board members, Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City

Santa Monica City Council Meeting Wrap-Up:
After discussion and debate, Council adopted an emergency interim ordinance that modifies development review thresholds, including establishing a requirement for a development review permit for any development that exceeds 50 units. Exemptions for affordable housing projects below 50 units remain in effect.