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Reforms Would Ease Approvals Process for Downtown Developments in Santa Monica
"[I]n an effort to speed the construction of new housing, [Santa Monica] is considering recommendations to streamline the approval process for larger developments," reports Steven Sharp.
The proposed changes to the city's approval process, under consideration by the city's planning commission this month, arrive three years after the city approved a new Downtown Community Plan, which added space for 2,500 additional housing units in the city's downtown core. As Sharp explains, the community plan offers three processes for approval, depending on the height, density, and building form of proposed developments. The two largest tiers require a design review process or a development agreement. The proposed changes to the city's approval process would extend the design review process to more projects, requiring a development agreement of fewer projects.
This would follow an emergency interim zoning ordinance adopted by the City of Santa Monica in March 2020, which authorized administrative review for 100 percent affordable housing developments and other projects compliant with California's Housing Accountability Act. Eliminating the development agreement requirement for Tier 3 projects would maximize opportunities for housing production in the Downtown neighborhood, according to the staff report.
According to Sharp, entitlements have been common since the city approved the Downtown Community Plan, but construction has not followed at the same scale.