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Development Agreements, Length of Meetings on City Council Agenda  

By Lookout Staff

September 10, 2010 -- The City Council will take up several measures on Tuesday, at what will be its first meeting in more than a month. Among the items are concepts to shorten meetings, the finalization of a lawsuit settlement with an apartment owner and a development agreement with a biotechnology company.

Mayor Bobby Shriver in May proposed several ideas to reduce the length of meetings, including the elimination of oral staff reports. Most of his concepts were not well-received by fellow council members and public speakers. See: June 24, 2010 Council How to Make Shorter Meetings.

City staff was asked to research the rules in other municipalities to gain some ideas for Santa Monica.

Among the concepts proposed by staff are a five-minute limit on oral staff reports, timers that would show public speakers and council members how long they had been speaking on an item and a modification to the feature allowing special-needs people to speak on any agenda item at the beginning of the meeting, and instead allowing them to submit written testimony. Also, meetings would start 15 minutes earlier with the closed-session discussion placed at beginning.

The legal settlement is with BlackRock Realty Investors Inc., owner of the 300-unit Plaza at the Aboretum on Colorado Avenue in the city’s east end. The City accused BlackRock of various violations of its development agreement, including the feature that 97 units be set aside for low- and moderate-income tenants.

As part of the legal settlement, aside from two technical exceptions, BlackRock agreed for the Aboretum to be subject to the City’s affordable housing ordinance and administrative guidelines that went into effect after the development agreement was established. BlackRock also agreed to pay for an affordable housing audit in April and to submit annual reports on compliance to the City after that.

Also, BlackRock must provide affordable housing training for its staff and hire permanent staff experienced in affordable housing, accept future tenants from the City’s waiting list and pay for the relocation of unqualified tenants if the tenancy was due to Big Rock’s negligence.

The proposed development agreement with Agensys Inc., which researches and produces cancer-fighting drugs, is for a 153,000-square-foot complex at 1800 Stewart Street. The company has been in Santa Monica since 1997, but the operation has been scattered among five separate locations.

For technical real estate reasons, Agensys needs this development agreement to be fast-tracked. It was endorsed by the Planning Commission last week. See: Planning Commission Supports Cancer Research Development Project , September 08, 2010.

Most agreement features were not controversial, with the exception being a request by biking advocates for a bicycle path to be placed on the property. Agensys officials said this was not possible, and the Planning Commission rejected the concept.

Also on the agenda is a request by Council member Richard Bloom that the City prepare a Notice of Availability inviting proposals for “creative uses and/or facilities” on the site next to City Hall that had been intended for the Broad Art Museum. Billionaire Eli Broad decided last month that he would locate the museum for his world-famous modern art collection in Downtown Los Angeles. See: Broad_Picks_LA_for_Museum, August 24, 2010.


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