Members of Santa Monica's architectural review board are no doubt wearing their sad faces now that the city council has decided not to look into including building heights above 84 feet in its developing Downtown Specific Plan. The plan will eventually guide development in Santa Monica's downtown, and while the city council's decision won't bar taller buildings, it will make them more onerous to build. Proponents of a taller, more downtown-y downtown Santa Monica had hoped the plan would include a taller maximum height, at least at a handful of "opportunity sites" like the proposed Frank Gehry-designed condo/hotel/museum project, which the review board swooned over earlier this month. The Santa Monica Lookout wrap-up of resident reactions to the decisions makes a few things clear.
First, Santa Monica has a lot of former mayors running around having opinions about things. Second, after a heated debate where "it has not been possible to disagree civilly about height and density," now no one agrees on what the decision means. Opinions run from "'This shouldn't remove anybody's concerns that there would be Council support' for tall projects" to "We gave away some of the control of the process (Tuesday) night by choosing not to study under our terms any additional height" and "Finally, a Downtown Plan that will reflect height limits in [the Land Use and Circulation Element plan] and impose a very high burden on developers to justify projects higher than 84 feet."
The Specific Plan is likely to come for a vote next spring. In the meantime, carry on arguing, Santa Monicans.
· Santa Monica Residents Sound Off after City Council Decision on Building Heights [SM Lookout]