City Council Meeting: April 24, 2007
Agenda Item: 7-D
To: Mayor and City Council
Subject: Emergency interim ordinance to establish a discretionary review process for single room occupancy housing developments throughout the City above a specified threshold, extension of the development review requirement to all projects in the Light Manufacturing and Studio District above a specified threshold, consideration of a Conditional Use Permit process for single room occupancy housing, and consideration of pedestrian-oriented design standards and/or uses for projects located in the Broadway Commercial District
Staff recommends that the City Council adopt the subject emergency interim ordinance, which:
1. Establishes a Development Review permit for single room occupancy projects with 40 or more units or more than 15,000 square feet of actual floor area throughout the City; and,
2. Extends the Development Review permit requirement to all projects over 7,500 square feet in area located in the Light Manufacturing and Studio District
On April 10, 2007, the City Council directed staff to evaluate and prepare an emergency ordinance to provide greater oversight of certain development activity to address potential neighborhood impacts due to the significant project size and lack of discretionary review. The intent of this action is to protect the community effort and direction made with the City’s Land Use and Circulation Element (LUCE) update planning effort, and to ensure that development proposals of considerable size provide adequate process for public review and consideration of possible adverse impacts to the environment.
The City Council specifically identified large single room occupancy developments as projects requiring discretionary review in order to effectively evaluate potential impacts. At Council’s direction, staff analysis includes all development activity in the Light Manufacturing and Studio District (LMSD) to ensure current and planned development proposals do not conflict with or preclude City policy direction forthcoming in the General Plan and zoning ordinance update.
This report examines these two issues and also presents alternatives to require pedestrian-oriented uses on the ground floor of projects located in the Broadway Commercial District. Attachment A contains an emergency ordinance to implement the recommendations in this report. There are no budget impacts associated with this item.
The City continues to maintain a long standing commitment to the production of housing generally and affordable housing specifically. Recent amendments to the Municipal Code include adjustments to the on- and off-site affordable housing requirements; affordable housing fee; development review thresholds for certain housing projects; and, enhancement of the City’s local density law consistent with the State Density Bonus law. All of these examples reflect and reinforce this important policy objective. In addition, affordable housing projects throughout the City will continue to be eligible for the following development incentives, as applicable:
· Ten foot increase in building height (commercial property)
· Fifty percent floor area bonus (commercial property)
· Setbacks reductions
· Unexcavated side yard limitations
· Higher Development Review threshold or straight exemption (in most districts)
Single room occupancy (SRO) housing is one component of the City’s approach to address local and regional housing needs. This form of housing limits the size of units to 375 square feet and benefits from reduced parking standards, elimination of open space requirements and exemption from discretionary review, except for design-related matters, which are evaluated by the City’s Architectural Review Board. Traditionally, SROs have been viewed and provided as a form of very affordable, transitional housing for those in need. However, recent development activity suggests there may be a shift to this paradigm.
Developers are beginning to propose projects
that capitalize on code incentives related to SROs. It is anticipated that
these units will be marketed as a form of workforce housing for young
professionals, students and other individuals. Most of these units will be deed
restricted and available for households earning 80% of the
While there are clear benefits for providing workforce housing in the City, using SROs to accomplish that form of housing requires careful review. The largest SRO units are comparable in size to a standard two car garage. While the Zoning Ordinance limits the number of occupants that can live in each unit to two persons, the small size of the units significantly increases density because more units can be accommodated on-site. Other multi-family projects typically contain bedrooms and have larger floor plans. Comparatively, this reduces overall density and serves to advance public policy objectives that support more family-sized housing opportunities. Given the size, scope, and location of recent SRO projects, there is concern that these developments will conflict with and/or preclude the City from advancing policy objectives being articulated by the public through the ongoing LUCE project. This requires re-evaluation of certain policies related to SROs and development in the LMSD.
Land Use and Circulation Element
For over two and half years the City has been actively engaged in a process to re-examine land use policy, identify priorities, and establish a plan to direct all future development and circulation patterns as well as infrastructure in the City. Most recently, the City held three neighborhood workshops that were attended by over 200 residents. Earlier outreach efforts received input from thousands of residents, business owners, and visitors. Throughout this effort, participants have expressed a desire to preserve neighborhoods, address traffic and ensure that future development is appropriately scaled. Significantly, the LUCE project is looking at these and other issues:
· Involving the community in creating a shared vision for the City;
· Defining how the City should look, function, and evolve;
· Integrating planning and transportation policy;
· Establishing consistency and predictability for residents, business owners and property owners, through clear policies, standards and design guidelines;
· Creating a planning and review framework where projects will enhance the quality of the built environment;
· Understanding and defining community benefits;
· Identifying and planning infrastructure needs to accommodate City’s future direction; and
· Establishing appropriate land uses and land use patterns to support the future Exposition Light Rail line.
While the entire City is being evaluated through the LUCE effort, the LMSD in particular is regarded by many as the most significant opportunity to advance public policy and create new community places, neighborhoods, and improve mobility and the pedestrian environment.
Light Manufacturing and Studio District
The LMSD presents the City with some of the greatest challenges and opportunities as it evolves in the future. Some of issues that are frequently discussed include:
· preserving light industrial uses;
· protecting small businesses;
· providing family housing opportunities;
· advancing sustainability principles;
· creating opportunities for transit oriented development;
supporting light rail stations with connections to the broader
· evaluating appropriate land uses and circulation needs to support a future vision; and,
· identifying and planning infrastructure requirements and capital improvement opportunities.
LMSD is unique in the City because it has unusual lot patterns and street alignments. The average parcel size in LMSD is nearly five times greater in area than the City’s typical 7,500 square foot lots. This part of the City is also receiving a considerable amount of development pressure. Nearly 44 percent of all currently proposed housing units in the City are located in this area, as shown in the following table:
HOUSING UNITS PENDING APPROVAL
Other Multi-family Housing
TOTAL HOUSING UNITS
SRO housing projects were administratively approved since December 2005
creating 211 additional units. 165 of those units were approved in the LMSD
** A 22-unit Artist Studio project was approved in 2006
Another 145 unit SRO project is planned, but has
not been filed with the City. It is anticipated that this project will be
located at or around
The significant increase in planned SRO units in the City compared to prior years suggests an urgent need to reassess policies related to SROs and evaluate potential impacts caused by large, high density, SRO developments. Moreover, a coordinated and comprehensive planning process is needed in the LMSD area, which is quickly changing in an unplanned manner with respect to street connections, open space and other public benefits and infrastructure. Closer scrutiny of development activity in the LMSD through the discretionary review process can significantly benefit the City’s ability to plan this area. It is important that projects being advanced through the entitlement process be subject to an appropriate level of public and environmental review. Similarly, large single room occupancy projects receiving significant City incentives also require a process in which to evaluate neighborhood compatibility, building mass and scale, parking, open space and potential environmental impacts.
Single Room Occupancy Housing
SRO projects on commercial or industrial land do
not have density limitations, other than code-established restrictions to
height and floor area. In many districts, housing floor area is also discounted
creating an opportunity for even more building area. The most recent SRO
projects approved by the City include 502
Recent development activity, however, suggests significantly larger SRO projects may be in demand. As stated earlier, 758 of the 1526 housing units pending City approval are SROs, which represent nearly half of all proposed units. There are another 145 SRO units anticipated in the near future. This is a significant increase in this type of housing and a unit density increase that greatly exceeds historic development patterns.
Larger projects support greater density and can take advantage of building height incentives and benefit from an administrative approval process when the units are deed restricted for affordable housing. The impacts of a large SRO project, given current standards, cannot be significantly evaluated for potential impacts to neighborhood character, traffic impacts or other quality of life or environmental impacts because they are administratively reviewed. Establishing a public review process would provide project neighbors, the public, and the City an opportunity to evaluate the impacts associated with a project and require changes or modifications to address those impacts. Depending on the size and scope of the development, an environmental impact report may be required.
The City’s current Development Review (DR) permit is the most appropriate application type to apply to these projects. If the DR threshold is met, a public hearing is required. Findings must also be approved that relate to:
· building scale and mass;
· placement of the structure on the site;
· compatibility with surrounding sites and the neighborhood;
· compliance with the General Plan
· ability of City infrastructure to accommodate the development; and,
· implementation of reasonable mitigation measures identified in the environmental review process.
Significantly, even if the proposed ordinance is adopted, SRO projects, including affordable SRO housing, will continue to be allowed throughout the City and will be eligible for many existing incentives, including height bonuses and reduction in parking and open space requirements, as applicable. The DR process ensures that SRO projects will receive adequate evaluation.
Accordingly, it is recommended that the threshold for SRO projects throughout the City be established based on the number of units and the size of the project. Specifically, an SRO project, regardless of its household income affordability, should require a DR permit if it contains 40 or more units or more than 15,000 square feet of actual floor area, inclusive of any floor area incentives offered by the Municipal Code to encourage housing. This threshold is appropriate given the densities that can be achieved in this type of project and the potential impacts related to the mass and scale. This review would be subject to the constraints imposed by State law. Depending on the project size, it may also allow for consideration of potential environmental impacts associated with a project.
Light Manufacturing & Studio District
Similarly, because of the important and continuing effort to establish a future vision in the City generally and the LMSD specifically, it is recommended that all development projects that exceed 7,500 square feet of actual floor area in the LMSD area, inclusive of any floor area incentives offered by the Municipal Code, require a DR permit. Most projects in LMSD are already subject to this standard. Extending this provision would require a few discrete projects that are currently exempt from the standard to obtain discretionary approval. Establishing a DR threshold to all projects over 7,500 square feet in LMSD will provide the public and the City an opportunity to evaluate projects for consistency with applicable policy documents, including policies that support family-sized housing, sustainable practices, improved architectural quality, neighborhood compatibility, and opportunities for a more pedestrian environment. It also seeks to protect the community effort and progress made with the City’s Land Use and Circulation Element (LUCE) update project and ensures that development proposals of considerable size provide adequate process for public review and consideration of possible adverse impacts to the environment.
Both SRO housing projects throughout the City and new development in the LMSD will continue to be eligible for all density and height incentives afforded by State Law and the City regulations. As recommended in the attached emergency ordinance, these projects will not be eligible for the DR permit exemption set forth in Santa Monica Municipal Code section 9.04.10.14.050 (Exceptions from development review thresholds). This section allows certain housing projects to be exempt from DR threshold if a specified percentage of floor area is devoted to affordable housing.
First Floor Pedestrian-Oriented Design
The City Council previously considered the appropriateness of requiring pedestrian-oriented uses on the first floor in projects located along Broadway in the Broadway Commercial District. At that time, the discussion was deferred for consideration in the ongoing LUCE effort. However, recent development activity along Broadway has raised the question again as to whether this issue should be advanced prior to completion of the LUCE project.
Pedestrian-orientation continues to receive a
considerable amount of attention from participants in the LUCE planning effort.
Community input supports a strong desire to make
The role of the Broadway corridor is currently being evaluated as part of the LUCE planning effort. It is anticipated, however, that Broadway will continue to serve as a mixed-use neighborhood supporting housing, office and retail uses. Currently, ground floor pedestrian-oriented uses are not required in the BCD. While housing projects represent the most recent activity along this street and have been receiving the most attention, some offices, which are not regarded as pedestrian-oriented, are also permitted on the ground floor. The Municipal Code includes a provision that establishes pedestrian-oriented design standards for all projects in the BCD. However, the code also allows an applicant to seek a modification to those standards through the Architectural Review Board. In the past, some projects, especially housing projects, have received approval to deviate from the standards.
To further advance pedestrian-oriented design Downtown, the City Council recently enacted an ordinance that set specific standards to regulate ground floor space, including first floor window height. Establishing standards is important to create the kind of pedestrian environment that has been expressed participants of the LUCE effort. Design standards can also serve as a mechanism to encourage and support more pedestrian-oriented uses.
If the Council desires to expand the pedestrian-oriented design standards to the BCD, staff recommends it apply the recently approved Downtown standards, or some version of it, as model for Broadway. While language is not included in the emergency ordinance, staff will be prepared with draft ordinance language at the public hearing.
As an alternative to the recommended action, the City Council could also consider the following, subject to constraints imposed by State law:
1. Requiring discretionary review for all projects located in the LMSD.
By requiring a Development Review permit for all projects adding any square footage and/or requiring a Conditional Use Permit for any change of use in the district, the Council could further ensure that the future evolution in this part of the City is consistent with existing and planned policy objectives. This approach will provide a forum whereby the Planning Commission, and City Council on appeal, could be involved in a case by case review of all projects in the LMSD area - an area that the Commission has been studying closely as part of the ongoing LUCE planning effort.
2. Require a Conditional Use Permit for all SRO projects in the City, in addition to the DR permit.
The size, mass and scale of large SRO projects raise significant issues regarding neighborhood compatibility and, as recommended in this report, should be subject to a DR permit. With the apparent market shift in some SRO housing projects away from a very low and low income level household to a more moderate income household, the City Council may want to consider whether it is also appropriate to require a Conditional Use Permit when a DR permit is required. This provision would not extend the time to process the applications, but it would increase application fees by approximately $1,300. The benefit of this action is that the project would then also be subject to specific findings that evaluate the proposed use to the integrity and character of the district; the compatibility with other land uses; and, provide that a large SRO project would not be detrimental to the public interest, health, safety, convenience, or general welfare.
3. Require pedestrian-oriented uses on the ground floor level in the BCD.
The discussion in this report related to pedestrian-orientation in the BCD addresses specific design standards to encourage pedestrian uses, though these uses are not required. One alternative the City Council may consider is to require pedestrian oriented uses as well as design. The City Council could apply this standard to all development in the BCD, or just housing projects, including SROs. Pedestrian-oriented uses are permitted land uses in the BCD.
4. Reject the subject emergency ordinance and direct staff to evaluate the issues identified in this report in the LUCE project.
The impact of this alternative cannot be fully assessed, but it could limit the City’s effort to establish a new community vision and disrupt specific, future policy objectives in the LMSD. Also, SRO projects throughout the City would continue to be evaluated on an administrative level precluding the opportunity for neighborhood compatibility analysis or environmental review. This may result in unmitigated impacts.
The proposed emergency interim ordinance is exempt from the provisions of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) pursuant to Section 15061(b)(3) of the State Implementation Guidelines in that CEQA applies only to projects having the potential to cause a significant effect on the environment. The proposed reduction in development review thresholds does not have this potential. Rather, the proposed amendment will expand the number of projects subject to discretionary review and evaluated pursuant to CEQA, while enhancing the public review process.
There are no funding implications associated with the recommendations contained in this report.
City Council Meeting 4-24-07
ORDINANCE NUMBER (CCS)
(City Council Series)
AN INTERIM ORDINANCE OF THE CITY
COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF
SANTA MONICA TO MODIFY THE DEVELOPMENT REVIEW THRESHOLDS, INCLUDING ESTABLISHING A DISCRETIONARY REVIEW PROCESS FOR SINGLE ROOM OCCUPANCY DEVELOPMENTS THROUGHOUT THE CITY AND FOR ALL DEVELOPMENT PROJETS IN THE LMSD, THAT MEET CERTAIN CRITERIA,
AND DECLARING THE PRESENCE OF AN EMERGENCY
THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE
(b) Approximately 87,000 people live in the City, on weekdays there are about 300,000 present in the City, and on weekends and holidays the number of persons in the City soars to between 500,000 and 1 million.
(e) In the last 25 years, land values within the City have soared due, in large part, to the land’s scarcity and prime location, the excellent climate, and to the desirability of living and working in a community which offers a vast array of urban amenities and services, a unique sense of community, pedestrian-oriented scale, and economic and social diversity.
(f) In recent years, ever-escalating land values, economic prosperity, and changes in state law have fueled a massive increase in development which has significantly altered the physical and social landscape of the City.
this period of rapid development and change, the City Council has adopted a
series of laws relating to land use and housing which were intended to strike
and restrike the balance between potentially conflicting municipal values and
policies in order to best protect the health, safety and welfare of
(h) During the last ten years, land use planning and regulation in Santa Monica has been driven by the ceaseless effort to balance the City’s commitment to maintaining economic and social diversity through the maintenance and production of housing for all economic segments of the community, with its commitment to protecting the environment, preserving the quietude of residential neighborhoods, and maintaining the experience of life on a human scale.
(i) During that time period, the City Council has adopted a series of laws intended to foster the development of affordable housing and to concentrate housing development in the City’s commercial districts in order to both meet housing goals and preserve quality of life in established residential neighborhoods.
(j) Due to these efforts, between 1998 and 2005, 62% of new residential developments were constructed in the City’s commercial districts and 84% of the residential units with building permits issued as of December 2005 will be located in these districts.
(k) During the RHNA Planning Period of January 1, 1998 through June 30, 2005, the City issued building permits for 2,920 units, 132% of its RHNA target of 2,208 units.
(l) The City has also provided various incentives for the production of affordable housing, including height and density bonuses, and reduced parking and open space requirements.
(m) In its continued effort to foster the production of affordable housing, in December 2003, the Council adopted Ordinance No. 2102 (CCS) which in large measure reduced the development review threshold in many zoning districts in the City, but which also entirely exempted 100% “affordable” housing projects located in most commercial districts from the development review process.
(n) A development review permit is intended to allow the construction of certain projects for which the design and siting could result in an adverse impact on the surrounding area such as development that is proposed to be built to a greater intensity and building height than generally permit in the area.
(o) A development review permit allows for the review of the location, size, massing, and placement of a proposed structure on the site, particularly as the project relates to the existing context of the area in which it is located. The development review process is designed to ensure that the development is compatible with and relates harmoniously with the surrounding neighborhood.
(p) A project that requires a development review permit is subject to public review by the Planning Commission, with appeal to the City Council, whereas a project below the development review threshold can be administratively approved.
(q) For the most part, the City has been able to preserve residents’ quality of life and the environment, notwithstanding significant development in an already extremely dense environment; this has been accomplished by carefully crafting and adjusting the public review processes applicable to development within the City.
(r) In July of 2004, the City began preparing a new Land Use and Circulation Element of the General Plan and a comprehensive revision of the City’s Zoning Ordinance, a massive project, crucial to the community’s long-term welfare, which remains ongoing at this time.
work on the LUCE update has included numerous public hearings and participation
by thousands of residents, business owners, and visitors. One key goal that has been repeatedly
articulated is that the City should carefully monitor future development –
particularly large-scale development – to ensure that
(t) Recent experience shows that the policy decision to exempt all affordable housing projects from any development review threshold must be revisited and refined in order to protect neighborhoods and quality of life within the City, particularly while the LUCE process is ongoing.
(u) This recent experience includes the City’s receipt of community input as to the LUCE update and of applications for extremely large and extremely dense affordable housing projects.
(v) These extremely large and dense projects greatly exceed historic development patterns in the City. There are many additional sites in the City which are or could be available for similar large, dense projects.
(w) In public hearings on the LUCE update, residents have demanded that development be regulated strategically to perfect the policy balance between the need for new housing and the community’s insistence upon preserving quality of life and the environment.
(x) Residents have noted that, in general, the development of affordable housing projects effectuates the City’s goals and policies favoring the preservation and creation of affordable housing; but those policies should not and were never intended to foster development of a size, scale and density so extreme as to threaten quality of life; nor were they intended to override the City’s strong commitment to environmental protection.
(y) In order to address the community’s concerns and properly balance competing housing and environmental policies, development review requirements must be revised as to very large, dense projects, in those parts of the City where the protections of the process are lacking and where it is particularly imperative that the LUCE process proceed to fruition.
(z) Reducing the development review threshold as proposed by this ordinance will not materially alter the City’s incentives for residential or mixed use development throughout the City. More specifically, among other incentives, in the City’s commercial districts, the City will continue to either provide FAR bonuses for the residential components of development projects or discount the residential floor area for the purpose of calculating FAR.
(aa) As detailed above, and in the April 24, 2007 City Council staff report, there exists a current and immediate threat to the public health, safety, and welfare should the interim ordinance not be adopted. Allowing development that is inconsistent with the contemplated revisions to the development standards to continue to occur would result in a threat to public health, safety, and welfare. For these reasons, the Zoning Ordinance requires review and revision as it pertains to the development review threshold for single room occupancy housing in the City and housing in the LMSD.
(bb) Pending completion of this review and revision, which will occur as part of the Land Use Element/Zoning Ordinance update, in order to protect the public health, safety, and welfare, it is necessary on an interim basis to modify the Zoning Ordinance to require that all single room occupancy housing in the City, except in the LMSD, be subject to a development review permit if that housing is forty or more units or exceeds 15,000 square feet and to require a development review permit for all development projects in the LMSD that exceeds 7,500 square feet, including single room occupancy housing.
(A) No development or permit shall be approved pursuant to Chapter 1 of Article IX of the Santa Monica Municipal Code for single room occupancy housing in the City, unless the following standards are met:
The single room occupancy housing complies with the existing property development standards for the Zoning District in which the housing will be located except, a development review permit shall be required for any such development if it is forty or more units or it exceeds fifteen thousand square feet of floor area. In calculating whether a development review permit is required, square footage devoted to residential use shall not be reduced. The exemptions specified in Santa Monica Municipal Code Section 9.04.10.14.050 shall not apply to single room occupancy housing that is forty or more units or that exceeds fifteen thousand square feet in floor area.
Single room occupancy housing in the LMSD shall be subject to subsection (B) of this Section 2.
(B) No development or permit shall be approved pursuant to Chapter 1 of Article IX of the Santa Monica Municipal Code for land in the LMSD District unless the following standards are met:
The project complies with the existing LMSD property development standards including the development review requirement established by Santa Monica Municipal Code Section 9.04.08.35.050(i), except that in calculating whether a development review permit is required, square footage devoted to residential use shall not be reduced. The exemptions specified in Section 9.04.10.14.050 shall not apply in the LMSD.
APPROVED AS TO FORM:
MARSHA JONES MOUTRIE