Santa Monica should revoke the business licenses of high-volume Main Street restaurants that habitually violate the street's stringent zoning regulations, according to a prominent neighborhood group.
The Ocean Park Community Organization, said board member Julie Dad, believes such action may be necessary to encourage compliance with regulations designed to make the trendy street acceptable to nearby residents.
"I know that sounds drastic," Dad said, "but there is significant concern in the community that some businesses have ignored the very specific laws governing operations on Main Street.
"There is general concern among residents that the Main Street zoning plan may not be working. Revoking a license or two would set a great example to the existing and future businesses on the street to stay within the zoning guidelines."
Dad said that restaurants have been targeted because they bring more customers, thus more parking, traffic and noise problems, to the street than any other type of business.
Adopted by the City Council in 1980, the Main Street zoning plan is the blueprint for development on the street between Pico Boulevard and the southern city border with Venice.
Unlike the more general zoning plans covering other parts of Santa Monica, the Main Street plan is specific. For instance, it limits the number of bars and restaurants per block and prohibits hotel development on most of the thoroughfare.
A coalition of residents and business people, called the Main Street Committee, was established to consider variances to the plan and, according to all participants, worked well to end what had been open warfare between residents and business developers.
Early this year, however, residents were impelled to find out if the plan was working to their satisfaction when the city Planning Department recommended allowing hotels in restricted areas and lifting the limit of two restaurants per block.
Coincidental with that effort, the city found a newly opened restaurant, the Wave, in violation of its seating capacity of 49 and was critical of how the restaurant operated its valet parking service.
"We have since found other restaurants that may also be in violation of the regulations," Dad said. "We are in the process of compiling a list of them and submitting the list to the city for investigation and, we hope, resolution of the violations."
Suzanne Frick, acting principal planner in the Santa Monica Planning Department, said that her office will begin an investigation as soon as the list is received.
"We already have begun a preliminary investigation of several possible violations," she said. Among the possible violators, she said, are the Scratch restaurant, the Chronicle restaurant and the Main Street Saloon. Additionally, she said, the city is not yet convinced that the Wave is abiding by its 49-seat limitation.
Frick said that more than 60 Ocean Park residents showed up at a meeting last week sponsored by the Ocean Park Community Organization to discuss possible Main Street zoning violations.
"There is no question that residents are very concerned about the cumulative effect of violations on the peace and quiet of their neighborhoods," she said.
Frick said that the conflict is apparently fueled by the same competing interests that gave rise to the specific zoning plan in the first place.
"The residents want to limit development and maintain the integrity of their neighborhood," she said. "The developers want to develop their businesses to the maximum allowable."
Dad said that the Ocean Park Community Organization will not support any effort to change the plan to allow currently prohibited businesses on Main Street.
"We want compliance first," Dad said. "Then, perhaps, residents will be in a mood to ease some of the restrictions."