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Santa Monica City Council to Tackle Plastic Bags, LUCE  

By Ann K. Williams
Lookout Staff

January 25, 2011 -- Tuesday's City Council agenda is deceptively short but rich with abstruse and controversial recommendations that should keep council members working well into the night.

Probably the simplest and most well-known item is an ordinance banning throw-away plastic bags in the city's retail stores.

The statute has been on the council's plate for several years and, now that the bugs have been worked out, is likely to pass.

If it does, grocery and retail stores won't be able to use the thin plastic bags that have clogged local storm drains and the gullets of sea creatures.

Recycled paper bags will be discouraged as well, with shoppers paying a mandatory fee of at least 10 cents per bag, money which will go directly into the stores' coffers.

As is often the case, land development will tie up a lot of the council's time.

Three items on Tuesday's agenda deal with large developments:

  • A temporary ordinance requiring development agreements for large downtown building projects so that they'll be covered by Land Use and Circulation Element (LUCE) guidelines that aren't yet in force there,
  • A report reviewing existing development agreements, and
  • A councilmember's proposal to let more people know when a large development is being planned in their neighborhood.

First, in a report obviously written for the initiated, council will consider an interim ordinance that, among other things, would make “Tier 2” (relatively large) developments downtown abide by LUCE standards.

LUCE guidelines include rules designed to reduce traffic, open up more pedestrian space, create bike routes, and require public input before developers can build.

Sunset park residents are being urged to show up and support the plan, while at least one columnist thinks it's a bad idea. ("WHAT I SAY," Not an Insult," January 24, 2011).

In a second item, city staff wants the council to review a dozen development agreements for completed projects, along with a handful yet to be built, to see how well developers are keeping their bargains with the city.

Rand Corporation, the city swimming pool, St. John's Health Center and the Yahoo Center are a few of the completed projects the council will be looking at, while the new Agensys development is on the “not yet constructed” list.

Public art, afforable housing fees, free parking, child care and community rooms are some of the concessions the city expects in exchange for the privilege of building these projects in Santa Monica.

Third, new councilmember Terry O'Day wants his peers to consider his proposal to “increase the...radius for notification” of neighbors near proposed large developments.

Councilmember Kevin McKeown has development on his mind as well.

After his last idea got drubbed – which would have forced councilmembers to identify themselves when a developer who supported their election brings business before the council – he came up with a new plan.

Now he wants the city clerk to copy lists of campaign contributions for each councilmember for the last five years and have the papers available for the public at council meetings.

After hours of land use arcana, council watchers will probably be relieved by O'Day's change of pace when he introduces another new idea, this time having to do with where the city gets its water. He wants the council and staff to study ways Santa Monica can achieve “100 per cent (water) self-sufficiency” by 2020.

As usual, the public portion of Tuesday's meeting, January 25, 2011, will start at 6:30 p.m. in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 1685 Main Street.


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