discussions on the dais and public debates at Santa Monica’s bi-weekly City
Council meetings are generally saved for ordinances or study sessions. By the
time City Council meetings reach the number 13 on the agenda, it would be safe
to presume adjournment is just around the corner.
not the case June 11 when City Clerk Sarah Gorman called item 13-C.
announced there were 61 speakers in the queue to address the council, it was
immediately apparent adjournment was not quite as close as one would expect
midway through the 13 items.
a council meeting already more than three hours deep would continue on for
nearly three more hours to debate and discuss the Downtown Specific Plan, Land
Use and Circulation Element (LUCE), and height restrictions in Santa Monica’s
an issue brought up during the “Council Member Discussion Items” portion of the
agenda to give City staff direction of what to do, such as draft an ordinance
or study a particular matter.
the June 11 meeting, Council members Kevin McKeown, Tony Vazquez, and Ted
Winterer sponsored a discussion item requesting their colleagues to direct
staff to slow down the public process for proposed developments who seek to build
projects higher than 84 feet, or six stories.
The direction was shot down, as the trio who
sponsored the discussion item could not muster support from another colleague.
Those who opposed the staff direction argued worried
the public review process might actually be limited should certain projects be
McKeown said during the meeting and in an email
afterwards the intent of the staff direction was ensure the timing of how the
process played out would be properly executed and enforced.
While such intent
may likely result in certain projects being delayed by a few months, McKeown
argued they delay would be countered by the fair tradeoff of good governance.
Indeed, McKeown stated the intent of the motion was
“to give the public confidence that we are first looking at the downtown
holistically before approving individual projects.”
A key element of the debate was the Downtown
Specific Plan. McKeown, Vazquez, and Winterer urged for greater patience –
especially with respect to opportunity sites – so that developments could
properly sync up with the Downtown Specific Plan, which is still being
formulated and is expected to be considered by council members as early as
McKeown explained in an email after the June 11
meeting the significance of being patient with current developments on tap and
waiting until the Downtown Specific Plan is fully fleshed out.
“The Downtown Specific Plan will
include in its review the opportunity sites, and it is entirely possible that
the DSP will require rethinking of one or more of the tower projects as
currently proposed. Right now, none is so far along that such rethinking should
be impossible,” McKeown wrote in his email. “My intent, along with my colleagues
Ted and Tony, was to keep us from backing ourselves into a situation where we
have a project with approval momentum that does not match what the community
decides it wants in the Downtown Specific Plan.”
the status quo remains and the current public review process for development
agreements remains in place.
Mirror will delve deeper into this
debate in next week’s issue.
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