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Santa Monica Halting New Downtown Development For a While

As an explosion of mixed-use developments transforms the look and feel of Los Angeles, some Santa Monica officials are still terrified of developers making any more changes to their city. NIMBY wars have already put the kibosh on several projects in the city, now City Manager Rick Cole wants to rein in future building projects under a unified code that preserves the existing look of Santa Monica. According to the Santa Monica Daily Press, Cole has called for a halt on all new development projects in downtown Santa Monica until the new Downtown Specific Plan is approved by the city council. A final draft of the DSP is not expected to be presented to them until early 2016.

The Downtown Specific Plan has been in the works for several years now, with a hope that it will bring an end to the fierce battles over new developments in the city. Under the plan, all new projects would have to fit within the DSP's guidelines; most of the stated themes in the plan revolve around controlling traffic congestion and keeping buildings short enough to provide "access to light and ocean breezes." Basically, don't mess up my old Santa Monica with your new Santa Monica.

Cole says the Downtown Specific Plan will eliminate the "kabuki theater" of developers negotiating each individual project with the planning commission. Under the current system, developments are approved on a case by case basis, and payments or slight modifications in design could get a project approved just under the wire. With the DSP in place, building requirements will be standardized and developers will know what will and won't fly with the planning commission.

Right now, there are 28 applications for development pending with the city, most of which will not come up for approval before the DSP is in place. Those projects will of course have to fall in line with the Downtown Specific Plan, but, in a bit of kabuki theater, four other projects have been given "priority processing" to get them completed before the DSP is approved. They include a mixed-user at a former Norms site on Lincoln, the Arclight movie theater on Fourth Street, and two buildings that are part of the construction of Fire Station 1.

The Downtown Specific Plan looks to be a harbinger of more broad planning ordinances to come. At the same city council meeting, there was a recommendation to create an Access Gateway Master Plan governing development plans on the land to the east of downtown. That plan would scrutinize developments mostly for their impact on freeway access. The plan would also look into the possibility of capping portions of the 10 Freeway to link downtown Santa Monica with neighborhoods to the east. Just make sure that freeway cap provides access to light and ocean breezes.
· Most development downtown put on hiatus [Santa Monica Daily Press]
· Downtown Specific Plan [SM]
· Rich 'Hood Wants to Stop All Development in Santa Monica [Curbed LA]
· The 7-Year History of SaMo's Most Controversial Development [Curbed LA]