City Council To Fill Vacant Santa Monica Planning Commission Seat Tonight

Tuesday, 22 Jan 2013, 9:02:00 AM

Parimal M. Rohit

The open seventh seat on the Santa Monica Planning Commission is expected to be filled tonight, Jan. 22, one day before the board holds a special meeting to consider the Downtown Specific Plan (DSP). Once selected by council members, the full panel is expected to converse about and provide direction for the DSP.

Several candidates are reportedly vying for the sole open commission seat, which was left vacant after Ted Winterer was sworn in as a Council member last month. New candidates include Tom Cleys, Laurence Eubank, Nina Fresco, Albin Gielicz, Valerie Griffin, Frank Gruber, Sue Himmelrich, Leslie Lambert, Armen Melkonians, John C. Smith, Jodi Summers, and Renee Weitzer. A few other carryover candidates are still on file from the last time a seat was vacant.

The new commissioner will waste no time making a contribution, getting into a discussion about the DSP less than 24 hours after he or she is appointed by Council members.

As for the DSP, next week’s Planning Commission meeting is the first of many where the panel will be discussing urban form within the downtown.

“Future discussions will address other topics including circulation, arts and culture and land use priorities,” City staff said.

Overall, the DSP, which was initiated in 2011, hopes to improve circulation and maintain a work-life balance throughout Santa Monica.

Though far from a final document, the DSP in its current format hopes to maintain a “thoughtful planning” process for new development downtown.

Light rail will be another focus of the DSP.

City Hall also hopes to increase creative and cultural opportunities, including live entertainment venues and providing a potential cultural facility arose as a consistent goal among residents for enhancing the downtown.

To help weather future economic downturns or recessions, the DSP also aims to diversify a mix of uses in the downtown area while addressing the daily needs of the growing residential and visitor sector.

In keeping consistent with the LUCE, the DSP also aims to have a “building envelope” in order to ensure the downtown is contained to specific boundaries. Also, the plan may include tiered standards for height restrictions and development approval process.

The City’s staff identified eight opportune locations that can accommodate access, circulation, and community benefits, including the future Expo Light Rail Station site, the Sears building, the Big Blue Bus Yards, and several intersections including Ocean and Wilshire, Ocean/Second and Santa Monica Boulevard, Ocean and Colorado, Fourth/Fifth and Arizona, and Fifth and Broadway.

Planning Commissioners are expected Jan. 23 to give direction to City staff on design standards as well as how to take advantage of key opportunities to maximize community benefits. The panel will also discuss a few initial concepts on enhancements for additional public parking, a diversified economic base, open space, cultural activities, and historic preservation.

After commissioners provide their respective input, City staff will return to the panel with an updated DSP. The plan will ultimately have to be approved by the City Council once it is complete.

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