City Council Meeting: June 28,
TO: Mayor / City Council
FROM: City Staff
SUBJECT: Comprehensive Update to the Civic Center Specific Plan and Associated Appeal of the Planning Commission’s Action
Appellant: Darrell Clarke
recommends that the City Council uphold the appeal of the Planning Commission’s
action on the comprehensive update to the Civic Center Specific Plan; adopt resolutions
to approve the comprehensive update to the Civic Center Specific Plan, certify
the associated Environmental Impact Report, and adopt a statement of overriding
considerations; and not adopt a resolution approving a discrete amendment of
the Land Use and Circulation Element of the General Plan. The Specific Plan provides a regulatory
framework for future development of parks, open space, community facilities and
housing in the
In 1993, the City adopted the Civic Center
Specific Plan (CCSP), which set forth a new vision for the
In April 2000, the revitalization of the
Recognizing the unique opportunities
associated with public ownership of a majority of the properties in the
In 2003, the City began preparing the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) assessing the draft Civic Center Specific Plan and required related actions. The draft EIR was released for public review during June and July 2004, comments were addressed and the Final EIR was completed in October 2004. The Specific Plan, EIR and related actions were reviewed by the Civic Center Working Group on May 3, 2005 and by the Planning Commission on May 18, 2005.
The Draft Civic Center Specific Plan is
attached at Exhibit A. The proposed CCSP
establishes the planning policies and land use and development regulations for
the 62 acres of land in the Downtown / Civic Center area, more than two-thirds
of which are in public ownership. The
proposed CCSP builds upon the 1993 CCSP, as amended in 2000. It recommends
revisions to the land use mix in the traditional
The proposed CCSP sets forth a vision for the
Overall, the proposed CCSP would allow for the development of over 16 acres of parks and open space, mixed-use multifamily housing with ground-floor retail, public, community and civic facilities, office space, and associated street and parking improvements. In comparison to the 1993 CCSP, overall development in the Civic Center area would be revised by reducing permitted commercial office facilities by 165,000 net square feet, reducing permitted governmental uses by 40,000 net square feet, reducing permitted community facilities by 9,500 net square feet, increasing permitted housing uses by 325 net residences, making no change in the amount of permitted retail uses, and increasing permitted parks and open space by 3.5 acres.
Space. The Civic
Center Open Space Plan encompasses parks and greens as well as promenades and
streets. It emphasizes flexibility in design and encourages multiple and
inclusive recreational uses. In addition, the proposed CCSP’s provision of new
housing and community facilities in the
Three signature parks, comprising nearly 13
acres, would be provided in the
In addition, greens, mews, courtyards and
promenades would be provided throughout the Specific Plan area, with specific
policies for these areas presented in the Draft CCSP. Within the open space
system of the
Circulation. A major element of the proposed CCSP is to promote and strengthen the center’s connectivity with the surrounding neighborhoods and environment, and to reduce the area’s historic isolation due to its topography, large size and single-purpose environment. Page 17 of Exhibit A illustrates proposed linkages within the CCSP area. The proposed CCSP provides for several transportation and circulation improvements, including additional streets, pathways and bikeways to provide access to specific facilities. The network of streets and pathways is also intended to break up the barrier-like nature of the Civic Center, extend and link public open spaces and activity centers within and adjacent to the area, and enhance access to and through the area for all modes. Two main vehicular circulation corridors are set forth in the Plan: the Main Street/Second Street Corridor, which provides improved vehicular, pedestrian and bicycle links between the Main Street commercial district on the south and downtown Santa Monica and the Third Street Promenade on the north; and the Olympic Drive corridor, which connects Fourth Street on the east with Ocean Avenue on the west.
The CCSP establishes street design standards for existing and planned streets within the CCSP area. These standards include the requirements for parkways, sidewalks, shade trees, continuous pedestrian-scaled lighting, benches and street furniture, transit shelters and coordinated signage
Development Policies. The proposed CCSP includes policies requiring the design of buildings to provide spatial definition to public spaces, to introduce activities and treatments at the ground level that contribute to a visually interesting and public-spirited pedestrian environment and to complement historic structures. The Plan area is divided into six special use districts. These districts include:
· The Auditorium Special Use District, which provides for the restoration of the landmark Civic Auditorium including up to 20,000 square feet of expansion for community, cultural and educational purposes; creation of an Early Child Development Center of up to 12,500 square feet, and creation of a new 5.6-acre park, including playfield, on the current site of the Civic parking lot.
The Civic Core Special Use District, which provides
for the restoration of the landmark City Hall and courtyard and up to 100,000
square feet of additional space for city services, surrounding a
The Palisades Garden Walk District, which provides
for a new four-acre park, complimented by park-oriented buildings and
restaurant space, on the northern part of the former
The Village District, which provides for up to 325
residences with ground-floor, neighborhood-serving retail uses, incorporating
0.7-acres of village green and mews on the southern part of the former
· The Santa Monica Place District, which provides for up to 85,000 square feet of office, 350 residences, and reconfiguration of retail space to create new pedestrian linkages to the Downtown and improved pedestrian-orientation.
The Colorado Avenue District, which encourages
planning for future transit and better connectivity between the areas north and
proposed CCSP includes sustainability policies related to transportation
facilities and development within the area. These include maximizing alternative
forms of transportation (include walking, bicycling, public transit and carpooling/vanpooling)
and low-emission vehicles within the
The proposed CCSP includes a policy for the
proportion of permeable land area within the
PROPOSED ADJUSTMENTS TO THE DRAFT SPECIFIC PLAN
Potential amendments to the Draft Specific Plan have emerged as a result of Working Group or Council direction or information provided in the EIR. Relevant issues are discussed below.
The EIR identifies the large Moreton Bay Fig
Tree on the former
After examining the fig tree and its
expected growth pattern, forestry staff and consultants established parameters
to ensure the tree’s current health and future growth. In order to accommodate the tree’s current and
future needs, the alignment of the
The proposed circulation adjustment has
implications for the
City Services: The portion of the
Open Space: Realignment of the proposed
East-West Bicycle Access
The Draft Specific Plan provides for Class I
bicycle access (exclusive bikeways) from the Ocean /
The City Council and Working Group expressed
a desire for a stronger bike connection to the signalized intersection (Fourth
Olympic Drive View Corridor
The Draft Specific Plan includes a setback
of 120 feet north of the centerline of Olympic Drive in order to create a view
Village Special Use District
Following its conceptual approval of the
While the Council’s RFP criteria do not include a specific height limit, the Specific Plan must include a height limit because the Land Use Element and Zoning Ordinance both defer to the Civic Center Specific Plan for development standards. The Working Group recommended that the Specific Plan include a maximum height of 56 feet generally within the Village District, with the allowed height at the southernmost portion of the site adjacent to the Viceroy Hotel reaching a maximum height of 84 feet. Such height limits have been studied within the EIR and are within the limit that the Land Use Element originally established for the Civic Center Specific Plan area. If different heights are deemed necessary to achieve the community’s goals for the Village District, a discrete amendment to the Plan could be considered as part of the approval of the Village development.
The Draft Plan includes language setting a minimum acceptable number of 225 residences to be developed in the Village District. This number was included in the Draft Plan to ensure that the eventual housing program achieved an intensity consistent with the community vision for the area. The Civic Center Working Group expressed concern that 225 residences would not meet expectations for the site. As a result, the Working Group recommended that the text be amended to reflect a requirement of providing 325 residences in the Village District. The primarily challenge with creating a single number of residences as a minimum and maximum is that there may be conflicts between the desires for lower building heights, larger residences that are suitable for families and others, and reaching the full program of 325 residences. As an alternative, the Plan could include language delineating the expectation for a program of 325 residences, without creating a firm requirement.
The Working Group also recommended that the Draft Plan’s policies encouraging affordable family housing and live-work housing suitable to artists be amended to become requirements. Associated amendments are included in Exhibit B.
Colorado Avenue Special Use District
During the public planning process for the
Santa Monica Place Special Use District
In November 2001, the City Council voted to
Land Use Element Amendment
Within the Land
Use Element, the Downtown Core is defined as the area bounded by
a Third Street Mall and Downtown Core
Area Specific Plan is Bayside District and
Core Area: 4 stories (56’); 3.0 FAR
Frame: 4 stories (56’); 2.5 FAR
and permit by
site development review up
Core Area: 6 stories (84’); 3.5 FAR
Frame: 6 stories (84’); 3.0 FAR
1.3.7 Once the
Third Street Mall and Downtown
Core Specific Plan is Bayside District and
PLANNING COMMISSION ACTION
Commission considered this item on May 18, 2005. At that meeting, the Planning Commission
recommended that the
As the Planning
Commission was unable to carry forward an affirmative recommendation to the
City Council to adopt the Civic Center Specific Plan, the matter had to be
appealed. On June 1, 2005, Darrell
Clarke, Vice-Chair of the Planning Commission, appealed the Planning Commission’s
action. Mr. Clarke’s appeal statement is
included as Exhibit K. The appeal
statement explains that only four Commissioners were present and able to vote
on the item. While three of the four
members favored approval, an affirmative recommendation required four
votes. Recognizing that the Specific
Plan was developed for a critical part of
Staff concurs with the appellant’s statement and recommends that the City Council uphold the appeal, adopt the Specific Plan and take related actions. A primary reason that certain members of the Planning Commission did not recommend adoption of the Specific Plan lies with commissioners’ personal experiences of traffic conditions and disagreement with the City’s approved traffic methodology. By way of background, the City employs an extremely sensitive and conservative traffic methodology. The base-year traffic operating conditions in the City’s traffic model are developed based on empirical traffic counts collected at each intersection.
practice for traffic studies is to use traffic count and forecast data from the
City’s Traffix database as the basis for the study, to which project
traffic is then added and evaluated. At
present, the Fall 2002 weekday traffic count dataset and Summer 2003 weekend
traffic count dataset in the Traffix database is the most recent
available dataset, and has been used for this EIR, as well as studies for other
recent projects in
The project traffic study, as well as other EIR traffic studies prepared for the City, rely on determining a “level of service” for intersections. The peak-hour levels of service are estimated using the “Operational Analysis” methodology from the Highway Capacity Manual (HCM), in accordance with City guidelines. The HCM is a nationally accepted document published by the Transportation Research Board. Using this methodology, the level of service is determined and reported for the intersection as a whole based on the average vehicular delay for all vehicles at the intersection. This methodology calculates average delay and volume-to-capacity ratio based on the amount of traffic traveling through the intersection, travel lane geometries, signal phasing, and other factors affecting capacity such as on-street parking, bus operations near the intersection, and pedestrian volumes at the street crosswalks. While delays longer and shorter than the average condition for the intersection as a whole can be experienced by motorists on certain movements and during specific times within the peak hour, the methodology reflects the overall conditions and delays that would be experienced by the average motorist.
In this way, the City’s traffic analysis presents a sensitive, conservative, comprehensive and reasonable forecast of future traffic conditions.
An Environmental Impact Report (EIR) has been prepared for the proposed project in accordance with Section 15087 of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) Guidelines. Two Notices of Preparation (NOP) were filed with the California Office of Planning and Research and distributed to involved public agencies and interested parties for 30-day public review periods that concluded on February 18, 2003 and May 10, 2004. Public scoping meetings were held on January 21, 2003 and April 15, 2004. Copies of the Draft EIR were made available for a 45-day public review period, which closed on July 22, 2004. A total of 13 comment letters on the draft EIR were received. These comment letters, as well as the response to comments, are included in the Final EIR (Section 4.0). Details of the significant impacts are discussed below.
The EIR addresses the potential environmental effects of the proposed project. The scope of the EIR includes environmental issues determined to be potentially significant by the Initial Study, NOP and responses to the NOP. The environmental analysis, particularly in the traffic and circulation section, categorizes buildout of the project into four major geographical components in order to associate specific mitigation measures, such as signal improvements, with specific development projects.
The environmental study determined that the proposed project would have minimal or no impacts for the following five environmental categories: Biological Resources, Mineral Resources, Economic and Social Impacts, Recreation and Agriculture Resources. Because potential effects in these impact areas were found not to be significant, further analysis of these impacts were not required or provided in the EIR.
The NOP identified potentially significant effects in the following impact areas associated with the construction or operation of the proposed project, which are addressed in detail in the EIR:
Aesthetics and Shadow Effects Air Quality
Construction Effects Cultural Resources
Geology and Soils Hazards and Hazardous Materials
Hydrology and Water Quality Land Use and Planning
Noise Population and Housing
Public Services Shadows
Transportation and Circulation Utilities
The EIR analyzed the issues referenced above and identified potentially significant environmental impacts, including site-specific and cumulative effects of the project in accordance with the provisions set forth in the CEQA Guidelines. The EIR also recommends mitigation measures, where feasible. To be feasible, the mitigation measure must eliminate or reduce the adverse effect, without creating unacceptable secondary impacts. Significant and mitigable impacts were found in the areas of Aesthetics, Construction Effects, Cultural Resources, Geology and Soils, Hazards and Hazardous Materials, Hydrology and Water Quality, Land Use and Planning, Noise, Transportation and Circulation, Utilities and Neighborhood Effects. A brief description of the impact and summary of the recommended mitigation measure for these mitigable impacts is provided in the Executive Summary of the EIR.
As discussed below, significant and unavoidable impacts that cannot be mitigated are identified in the EIR as follows:
The transportation and circulation study for the project analyzed 48 intersections during weekday and weekend peak-hour conditions. In addition, five neighborhood traffic segments were analyzed. Six of the intersections currently operate at unacceptable conditions during the weekday or weekend peak-hour. As a result of overall regional growth and approved or planned development projects, 13 of the study intersections are projected to operate at unacceptable conditions during the weekday or weekend peak-hour in future year 2012.
The transportation analysis examined significant impacts related to Levels of Service (LOS) and volume/capacity ratios from the project. Significant impacts are projected to occur at thirteen of the 48 study intersections:
Mitigation measures identified for four of
Neighborhood traffic impacts are identified
in the EIR for
It should be noted that certification of the EIR does not grant any land-use entitlements.
Section 6 of the EIR analyzes four
alternatives to the proposed project, including a “no project” alternative (no
change to existing land uses), build-out of the existing Civic Center Specific
Plan, an increased density alternative and a reduce density alternative. The reduced density alternative is considered
to be the environmentally superior alternative; however, significant and
immitigable impacts are expected related to Traffic and Circulation, Air
Quality, Construction Effects and Neighborhood Effects, as under the proposed
project. The alternative is considered to be infeasible as it would not meet
the project goals of providing a significant program of much-needed housing in
Plan adjustments recommended in this report would reduce environmental impacts,
without creating new impacts.
Specifically, relocation of the
In order to approve the project, the City Council must certify the EIR and adopt a statement of overriding considerations. A statement of overriding considerations is a finding by the City Council that the benefits of a proposed project outweigh the unavoidable adverse environmental impacts. Staff recommends that a statement of overriding considerations is warranted for the following reasons:
Civic Center Specific Plan will provide needed new open space, recreation,
housing, civic and community resources within
the proposed plan, the
· Over sixteen acres of open space will be created under the plan, meeting a diversity of community recreational needs, ranging from active playfields to flexible greenscapes to community gathering spaces.
· Several transportation and circulation improvements are included in the CCSP, including additional streets, pathways and bikeways to improve access to specific facilities within the area, to link the area with adjacent areas and to enhance access through and to the area.
community needs will be addressed by the CCSP, including creation of an early childhood
development center to serve the needs of
proposed CCSP provides for restoration of the landmark City Hall and courtyard,
as well as additional space for consolidation of local public services to meet
housing needs in
· The predominant new uses associated with the CCSP are housing and open space, which are generally lower peak-hour traffic generators in comparison to commercial uses.
· The housing proposed for the Civic Center will be located in an area where requirements to make auto trips will be reduced due to walking and bicycling proximity to job centers, shopping, dining, services, parks and recreation, and a concentration of local and regional bus lines.
· The Civic Center’s housing variety, including housing suitable for families, seniors and artists, as well as Santa Monica’s historical attraction to arts and entertainment workers who often work from home or employ non-traditional schedules, is also expected to reduce peak-hour auto trips. When trips do require auto use, the new residences will be located within two blocks of freeway on-ramps, limiting the need to traverse local streets to reach regional destinations.
proposed plan provides for new residences in
· The new housing also provides an opportunity to address housing affordability generally within the most expensive housing market in the region and in a city whose population has been largely unchanged over the past 25 years, and in particular providing new housing resources that are specifically targeted to lower-income households.
· With its focus on housing and open space, the project provides an ideal location for housing that can reduce the need for auto trips and the associated air quality impacts.
· The plan promotes environmental sustainability in many ways in order to reduce environmental impacts within the area. As new, environmentally friendly technologies related to residential heating and landscape maintenance continue to be developed and deployed, it is expected that the associated air quality impacts identified in the EIR will be reduced.
· While the significant impacts during demolition, construction and application of architectural coatings are significant, they are expected to be temporary in nature and limited to the period of construction.
BUDGET / FINANCIAL IMPACT
Adoption of the Civic Center Specific Plan will have no direct impact on the budget. In the long run, capital and operating funds will be necessary for implementation of the parks and community facilities.
It is recommended that the City Council uphold the appeal by taking the following actions associated with the Civic Center Specific Plan:
1. Certify the Environmental Impact Report;
2. Approve a Statement of Overriding Considerations;
3. Adopt the comprehensive update to the Civic Center Specific Plan, as amended; and
4. Do not adopt a discrete amendment of the Land Use Element of the General Plan.
Gordon R. Anderson, Assistant City Manager
Barbara Stinchfield, Director, Community and Cultural Services
Karen Ginsberg, Assistant Director, Community and Cultural Services
Craig Perkins, Director, Environmental and Public Works Management
Jeff Mathieu, Director, Resource Management
Ron Barefield, Acting Housing and Redevelopment Manager
Andy Agle, Interim Director, Planning and Community Development
Paul Foley, Senior Planner