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Council Takes Up Busy Agenda

By Jorge Casuso

July 14 -- Working overtime, the City Council this week took a wide array of actions that will impact everything from securing dining spots on the Promenade to providing funding for 41 units of affordable housing in Ocean Park.

At its meeting Tuesday, the first of two this week, the council reached the end of a six-year effort to craft a policy that strikes a healthy balance between restaurants and retail on the Third Street Promenade. (see story)

Worried that it would ruin an elegant solution for stemming the exodus of eateries from the popular walk street, the council struck down a recommendation by Downtown officials to include a vehicle for relocating restaurant use to a different site on the Promenade when a restaurant is displaced.

“I hate to see good idea complicated,” said Council member Kevin McKeown. “I was lavish in my praise for an elegant new idea. Now it’s come back to us with this restaurant space swap, and it’s nearly beyond recognition.”

After Downtown officials said the recommendation was “a last moment idea” that was not “crucial,” the council opted to stick to the core recommendations made by the Bayside District Board, which runs the Downtown, including the Promenade.

Under the ordinance approved on first reading, existing restaurants would retain at least half the frontage of the building with a guaranteed minimum of 16 feet.

Restaurants would maintain the same outdoor floor area, which can be set it back as much as 20 feet after a hearing before the Architectural Review Board (ARB). The ordinance also establishes a minimum restaurant depth of 75 feet from the property line.

“We should have at least half of the building façade remain dining use,” said Council member Ken Genser, who made the motion. “We should even it out.”

The ordinance would replace a stop-gap measure approved by the council in February that controlled restaurant-to-retail conversion by requiring a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) if a landlord wants to replace a restaurant with a retail tenant.

In a separate action that affects zoning regulations, the council approved on first hearing four interim ordinance extensions that:

  • Clarify that business establishments with alcohol CUPs must obtain new alcohol CUPs if the establishment ceases operating for more than a year, or six months in the CM district.
  • Allow administrative approval of the number and type of driveways required for parking structures with more than 40 parking spaces in multi-family, commercial and industrial districts.
  • Authorize the placement of furniture, portable landscaping and cigarette disposal receptacles in the public right-of-way and the display of merchandise in private vestibules.
  • Modify the threshold at which a structure is determined to be substantially remodeled and, as a result, subject to all current applicable zoning code regulations.

The council on Tuesday also approved Housing Trust Fund loans and grants to the Community Corporation of Santa Monica totaling more than $12.5 million. Of that amount, $5,867,993 will be used to purchase and rehab a 19-unit affordable housing development at 2900 4th Street, while $6,782,455 will be used to buy and rehab a 22-unit affordable housing development at 2211 4th Street.

The council Tuesday also held a study session to explore alternatives for the future of the City’s commercial refuse collection and a transfer facility and services for recycling and disposal.

The alternatives include eliminating the City Yard and delivering the recyclable to other private or public parties. Other alternatives would improve the existing facility for City use only, but contract a private “partner” or another city “partner.”

The City will issue Requests for Proposals in January 2007 after Council review. Bids will be entertained in the spring, with final recommendations made to the council at a public hearing in June 2007. The new structure would be up and running a month later. (see story)

On Wednesday, the council moved from trash to water, approving the Santa Monica Watershed Management Plan and setting a July 25 hearing for proposed stormwater parcel fee increases.

The council also voted to pave the way for a Clean Beaches and Ocean Funding measure on the November ballot that would fund more than $40 million in stormwater projects over 10 years, “resulting in a cleaner, healthier, safer beach and bay, through an average $79 parcel tax annually,” according to City staff.

Also on Wednesday, the council voted to extend an existing agreement with Santa Monica College that keeps Airport Avenue open to student traffic exiting the Bundy campus parking lots and allows pedestrian access from that campus to the SMC facility to the west on Airport in exchange for a traffic light on Bundy Avenue. (see story)

The agreement was extended until February 28, 2007, with the option to extend it to July 31, 2007 if sufficient progress has been made on the effort to install the signal at the Bundy Drive entrance to the college campus.

Los Angeles Council member Bill Rosendahl, who represents the neighborhoods adjoining the site, told the council in a letter that road improvements are slated to be completed and a half signal installed by early 2007.

“We will continue to work proactively with all parties to expedite the enhanced public safety and traffic flow resulting from this project,” Wrote Rosendahl, who helped broker the deal between College and City officials.

After fighting a long and unsuccessful legal battle to throw out a conflict of interest law approved by Santa Monica voters six years ago, the council on Wednesday took the initial steps to take the issue back to the voters. (see story)

The council directed staff to prepare a ballot measure intended to “correct the defects”of the Oaks Initiative -- which bars politicians from taking campaign cash, gifts or jobs from companies they award city business to -- while maintaining the measure’s intent “to protect good and open government.”

Staff was asked to include the best ideas from a Vista ordinance that overrode the Oaks Initiative in that city, Pasadena’s approach to to the same initiative approved by local voters and "clean money" campaign financing reform. (see story)

The council is expected to determine on July 25 or August 8 whether to place the measure on the November ballot.

The council this week also allocated $10,000 in discretionary funds to help nine Samohi students from Project Echo travel and stay in Shanghai, China, where they will represent the U.S. in the Sage World Cup, and international competition designed to foster ethical and socially responsible entrepreneurship on a global level. (see story)

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