Ocean Park residents and business people will conduct the first comprehensive assessment of strict development controls on Main Street since the adoption of a zoning plan for the trendy thoroughfare five years ago.
The Main Street Committee, a coalition of residential and business interests, is seeking neighborhood views on what zoning changes, if any, should be considered for Main Street.
Julie Dad, an Ocean Park resident and member of the committee, said that community opinion is being sought in flyers that have been sent to residents. The assessment process will be completed when the flyers are returned and evaluated.
"We believe it is time to take another look at zoning for the street," Dad said. "We want to maintain the low-scale development character of the street and, at the same time, be flexible to accept compatible uses that were banned when the zoning regulations were adopted."
The Main Street Committee was established by the city in 1980 after residents complained that the combination of chic restaurants, noisy singles bars and expensive boutiques on the street aggravated parking problems in adjoining residential areas.
The committee drew up a zoning plan that restricted the number of restaurants to two per block from Pico Boulevard to the southern city limits, established low height limits for buildings and banned hotel development on most blocks.
The City Council adopted the plan late in 1981 without any changes and, in the intervening years, accepted committee leadership on Main Street zoning.
Proposals Prompted Review
Dad said that the review was spurred last month by proposals to allow hotels and more restaurant development on the street.
The proposals were advocated by the city's planning staff, then withdrawn when members of the committee complained that their views were not sought on what they said would be drastic changes in Main Street zoning regulations.
Dora Ashford, a longtime Ocean Park activist and chairwoman of the Ocean Park Community Organization, said the proposals violated the longstanding neighborhood approach to changes on Main Street.
"City planners had forgotten that the only way we were able to defuse controversy over Main Street development was by the consensus of the people who live and work here--not by the city imposing unwanted development standards on the neighborhood," Ashford said.
Suzanne Frick, acting principal planner for the Santa Monica Planning Department, acknowledged that the department should have considered the views of Main Street residents and business people before making the proposals. But she defended them.
"Small hotels of the bed-and-breakfast type (no more than 20 rooms) are less obtrusive to nearby residential neighborhoods than commercial businesses that generate far more traffic," Frick said.
"Our proposal for more restaurants was based on the view that some of Main Street's blocks are long enough in length to accommodate more than two restaurants."
Douglas Barnard, chairman of the Main Street Committee and a prominent developer on the street, said the proposal to allow small hotel development on the street will be considered by the committee.
He plans to suggest that the committee ease up on certain prohibited uses, as long as surrounding property owners do not object to them.
"When the plan was written," said Barnard, who worked on it, "my understanding was that restaurants and hotels could be approved through the conditional-use process. The city has taken the position that this was not the case."
Dad said that she probably would oppose expanding the conditional-use process.
"The problem residents have with conditional use is that it basically gives approval to projects, albeit with conditions," she said. "I sense in my talks with residents that they would prefer that Main Street zoning regulations stay pretty much as they are now."
Whatever the committee decides, Barnard said, residents and developers have agreed that the cooperative atmosphere on Main Street must be maintained.
"We do not want to return to the all-out war between residents and developers that existed before our committee was formed," he said. "We have been able to solve our differences by developing a very specific zoning plan for the street and by working cooperatively together."