The Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce and a tenants organization are preparing their arguments for a series of City Council hearings on a proposed zoning code that would determine how every parcel in Santa Monica could be developed.
The draft zoning code, which the Planning Commission and Planning Department have labored on for several years, is the first comprehensive review of city zoning since 1960. The Planning Commission approved the draft code, which covers the city's approximately 15,000 parcels, in December.
"The real battle will take place in the council," said Bill Weingarden, speaking on behalf of the Mid-City Neighbors tenant organization. "(It has) the final authority" over the shape of the new code.
Mid-City Neighbors is one of the primary opponents of the draft code. The organization draws its membership from an area bounded by Lincoln Avenue on the west, Centinela Avenue on the east, Wilshire Boulevard on the north and Santa Monica Boulevard and Colorado Avenue on the south.
The neighborhood has "really taken it on the chin," according to Weingarden, who said the community, which is home to one of every eight city residents, will be zoned for some of the most intense commercial development in Santa Monica.
"Our neighborhood is targeted with all this development that will raise tax dollars for the city, which will be spent in other neighborhoods," he said. "Ultimately we think this wholesale commercialization of the neighborhood may destroy it completely."
Weingarden said Mid-City objects to the six-story buildings that the draft code allows on Wilshire and the four-story structures that will be permitted on Santa Monica.
Weingarden said his group plans to urge the council to reduce the height limits on both streets to three stories. On Wilshire, an additional story would be allowed if the developer pledged to devote some space to an outdoor plaza or cafe.
Mid-City will also recommend that new auto dealerships be banned on Wilshire and prevented from expanding on Santa Monica Boulevard unless dealers agree to move their service facilities.
The organization also objects to sections of the draft code that eliminate mandatory Planning Commission review of some projects.
Weingarden said that under the draft code, new projects on Santa Monica Boulevard that are under 35,000 square feet and those on Wilshire Boulevard that are less than 40,000 square feet could be processed without Planning Commission review. Mid-City will urge the council to require a review of all projects larger than 15,000 square feet, as is proposed in the Main Street and Montana Avenue business districts.
However, Christopher Harding, chairman of the land-use subcommittee of the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce, said the council should allow projects under 70,000 square feet to be built on Santa Monica and Wilshire boulevards without Planning Commission review.
Harding also was critical of the absence of time limits for processing and ruling on building applications.
"A timetable for decision making is a very important priority," he said. "We are very concerned about the failure to come up with any timetable at all except for the maximum time limits set forth in state law."
Harding complained that it now takes the Planning Department up to six months to process applications for zoning variances. He said the chamber has recommended that it be done within 60 days and that projects examined by the Planning Commission be reviewed within 120 days of filing by the applicant.
"A timetable tells everybody up front how long it takes" to get approval, Harding said.
Parking requirements under the new code are another major area of concern, Harding said. "The parking limits are not consistent with the actual demand for parking."
The proposed code would increase the amount of parking that developers of new projects are required to provide, Harding said. For example, office developers now must supply one parking space for every 300 square feet of office space, he said. Under the new code, developers have to supply one space for every 250 square feet of office space. Parking requirements would also increase for new medical offices, hotels and motels, he added.
City Council hearings on the code are scheduled for early this year.