Santa Monica Lookout
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Where Is Santa Monica's City Council?

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark


Rusty's Surf

Harding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP  law firm
Harding, Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

By Jason Islas
Staff Writer

July 3, 2013 -- When the City Council takes up one of the most contentious issues facing the city after months of community debate, nearly half of its members could be missing from the dais.

Council members Gleam Davis and Kevin McKeown won't be at Tuesday's meeting when the Council discusses potential height limits on eight prime pieces of real estate Downtown.

Asked why she could not attend, Davis replied, "I will be back east with my son. He is attending two elite lacrosse camps and doing college visits.

"He signed up for the camps last November--long before the July 9 agenda was set. Staff has known that I would miss this particular meeting for months."

McKeown could not be reached for comment, but according to a knowledgeable source he is vacationing in "England and Ireland and possibly the Continent" with his wife.

The source said the McKeown was expecting to be in some "fairly remote locations" and "that internet access could be an issue."

Council member Bob Holbrook, due to a recent knee surgery, may have to participate in to the meeting by phone from the Council office in City Hall.

“Once in a while, there's something you just don't want to miss,” said Holbrook, who has been on the council for 23 years.

Holbrook spent the June 25 meeting in the Council office at City Hall where he watched the meeting on television with his leg elevated, phoning in his votes.

He hopes that by Tuesday, he'll be ready to be back on the dais. “I prefer to be on the dais so I can ask questions,” he said.

Perhaps most surprising is McKeown's absence from this discussion.

In June, McKeown put forth a motion that would have prevented three proposed projects -- each more than double the current height limits -- from going before the Planning Commission, the Architectural Review Board (ARB) or the City Council until the Downtown Specific Plan is adopted likely next March.

McKeown claimed at the time that he was trying to take the most controversial projects off the table in order to defuse an increasingly volatile community process.

But McKeown will miss the Council's first chance to weigh-in on concrete height limits for those projects.

City officials have recommended limiting development at eight “opportunity” sites -- where planners are proposing height and density limits that exceed those in the rest of the Downtown -- to about 12 stories, or 120 to 135 feet.

While that may seem tall in Santa Monica, where developments over 84 feet has been prohibited since 1984, those limits are significantly shorter than any of the three hotel projects currently in the pipeline.

Tuesday's decision will not decide the official limits in the Downtown Specific Plan but would rather set the parameters for a State-mandated study of the environmental impacts of future development Downtown.

Developers would still be able to propose buildings that are taller and more dense than the upper limits studied by the City, but the developers would have to provide their own study on the impacts and apply for an amendment to the Specific Plan.

“It's very important to me,” said Holbrook, referring to the anticipated discussion Tuesday. “Let's get down to some real thoughtful discussions.”

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