The Santa Monica City Council has approved a proposal for a zoning ordinance that would concentrate movie theater development on the Third Street Mall.
The ordinance would allow developers to build 4,000 new movie theater seats on the mall without applying for a special permit and would prohibit new movie theaters in the rest of the city. Conditional-use permits would be required for additional seats on the mall and for other theaters in the downtown area.
The council Tuesday instructed the Planning Commission, which will review the proposed ordinance, to include video theaters under its definition of cinema uses. It also set April 28 as the deadline for Planning Department consideration of projects proposed for outside the downtown area.
However, the council agreed to consider a proposed theater complex at 234 Pico Blvd., although the site is outside the downtown area, because an environmental impact report on the project has been filed and accepted. The Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on the project.
Southmark Pacific Corp. has the right under an old development agreement with the city to build its theater complex at Colorado Place, according to the staff report.
"All the other projects not on the mall are getting the message that they shouldn't bother to apply," said Councilman Dennis Zane, who initially requested the planning staff report after neighbors objected to a proposed theater complex on Wilshire Boulevard between 23rd and 24th streets.
Joseph T. Langlois, a partner in City Equities Inc., the company that proposed the theater complex on Wilshire, said he might try to build a movie theater somewhere else in Santa Monica. He said he intends to resubmit the Wilshire Boulevard proposal, which includes retail shops, restaurants and offices, but will "abide by the development guidelines set by the City Council."
Those guidelines were hailed by 23 residents who stayed until after midnight Tuesday to address the council. Representatives from several neighborhood groups, including Mid-City Neighbors, Sunset Park Associated Neighbors, Concerned Homeowners of Santa Monica and Ocean Park Community Organization, demonstrated their unity by wearing yellow badges depicting a movie marquee that read "traffic" and "noise" and said "Not in our neighborhoods."
"We all agree," said Geraldine Moyle, a director of Ocean Park Community Organization who lives on 3rd Street near the 234 Pico Blvd. project. "No projects should be allowed that encroach on residential areas."
Doug Lowe, architect for Dean Beck & Associates, the developers behind the 234 Pico Blvd. project, said he lives in the Ocean Park neighborhood and believes any potential traffic and parking problems could be mitigated. He attributed the opposition to "a kind of anti-development hysteria that exists everywhere these days."
Proponents of theaters on the Third Street Mall welcomed the council's action. Thomas H. Carroll, executive director of the Third Street Mall Corp., said theaters were crucial for the mall's economic well-being and would increase business for merchants.
"People worry about Westwood, but we have 3,000 parking spaces here," Carroll said.