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Council Determines All Santa Monica Development Agreements in Compliance

Bob Kronovetrealty
We Love Property Management Headaches!

Santa Monica Convention and Visitors

By Jorge Casuso

July 26, 2019 -- The City Council on Tuesday determined that all 30 major projects built or being constructed in Santa Monica under development agreements (DA) are in "good faith compliance."

Construction has not started on the other three developments the City Council has approved under a DA framework adopted in 1982, according to staff's report to the Council.

DAs allow developers to exceed zoning and land use standards by providing community benefits, such as open space, affordable housing, traffic mitigation measures and, in the case of hotels, living wages for employees.

"Each Development Agreement contains unique time frames, obligations, and requirements," staff wrote in its report. "The obligations can be one-time or ongoing; some are fees, some are actual physical improvements, and some are ongoing services."

Every year, City staff reviews the projects to determine if a developer is complying "in good faith" with the terms and conditions of their Development Agreement.

If there is "substantial evidence" a developer is failing to comply, the City Council can act to "enforce, modify, or terminate" the agreement, staff said.

Five "very early" Development Agreements do not include annual reporting and other monitoring requirements, according to staff.

In general the DAs for these projects required street improvements or the payment of fees that were satisfied when the projects were completed, staff said.

Councilmember Sue Himmelrich, who cast the lone dissenting vote on Tuesday to determine the DA projects are complying, said she was concerned about the data used to make that determination.

She noted that the Saint John's Health Center DA required complex calculations the City's planning staff could not adequately explain at the meeting.

And she worried that the affordable housing requirements were not listed in the report submitted to the Council.

Himelrich said she was "especially concerned with regards to tracking affordable housing requirements" to ensure current tenants qualify under the income restrictions.

Staff said those requirements are monitored by the City's Housing Division.

The only development signaled out by staff in its report was the one-million square-foot Colorado Center, which failed to meet its goal to increase its average vehicle ridership (AVR).

The development had a 1.37 AVR last year, falling short of its goal of 1.6 AVR, which staff said is a target and not a requirement.

"Colorado Center is implementing measures focused on restructuring its carpool incentive program, and continuing full implementation of its Evolve Your Commute marketing and incentive program for the property," staff said.

The center's traffic policies came under scrutiny in 2011 when it was the Yahoo! Center ("Planning Commission Wants Stricter Rules for Yahoo! Center Parking Leases," May 23, 2011).

Under an amended development agreement, the owner was required to institute a campus-wide Transportation Demand Management (TDM) program.

Of the 30 projects reviewed by staff, all 23 of the completed projects and all seven under construction complied with their development agreements, staff said.

Last year all of the projects reviewed also complied.

The last year a property was found not to be in compliance was 2017 ("Most Santa Monica Development Agreements Compliant, Annual Report Says," March 6, 2017).

That year staff determined that the Agensys drug company's property at 1800 Stewart Street failed to reduce the number of daily vehicle trips called for under its 2010 Development Agreement.

Two years earlier, City officials had considered litigation to force the company to comply (“Santa Monica Council Ponders Options to Deal with Non-Compliant Developer,” January 30, 2015).

It wasn't the first time the City resorted to legal measures.

In 2010, the City filed a lawsuit against the owners of the Arboretum on Colorado Avenue for allegedly violating its affordable housing requirement ("City Suit Alleges Affordable Housing Violation," February 18, 2010).

That year, the City came under fire from community activists who alleged DAs were not being enforced ("City Crafting Policy on Development Agreement Enforcement," March 29, 2010).

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