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Santa Monica Extends Building Moratorium : Development: The ban on large commercial construction will continue for one more year while the city devises a permanent plan.

February 28, 1991|DENNIS ROMERO | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The Santa Monica City Council this week extended for one year a moratorium on large commercial developments, but vowed to speed up a process of permanently controlling development in the city.

For more than a year, the city has been updating its General Plan in response to the unprecedented surge in commercial growth that began in the latter half of the '80s. City planning staff members were seeking a two-year extension of the moratorium, which was imposed in mid-1989, but on Tuesday the council unanimously agreed that one more year was enough.

"The council wanted to create greater discipline in the process to get the work done," said Councilman Dennis Zane.

The moratorium will exempt the construction of public facilities and development at Third Street Promenade, the airport and the pier.

Some small developments are exempt from the moratorium, but the council reduced by about 33% the allowable size of projects that would qualify for exemptions. In a typical commercial neighborhood, for example, the largest allowable office building would be 15,000 square feet under the revised emergency ordinance, down from 22,000 square feet.

At Tuesday's meeting, developers, council members and representatives of the Santa Monica Area Chamber of Commerce all criticized city staff for moving so slowly to update the General Plan.

In a letter to the council, Kenneth L. Kutcher, chairman of the chamber's growth task force, said that "confidence in the city's ability to make land-use policy decisions will continue to erode if no interim standards can be adopted after nearly two years of study."

Paul Berlant, the city's planning director, said the process has been delayed because the Planning Commission last year asked Berlant's staff to amend the entire city General Plan, rather than just the portion dealing with commercial development. In response to the council's direction Tuesday night, the staff will again focus only on commercial growth, Berlant said.

"We feel that we have done what was asked of us," he said.

The city first passed the emergency moratorium in 1989 when it determined that commercial development, especially hotels, had overrun the city and had already reached development goals to the year 2000.

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