SANTA MONICA—On January 24, the Santa Monica City Council voted to approve an interim zoning ordinance establishing interim development standards for parcel coverage, building height, size of second floor decks and balconies, and accessory dwelling units for R1 Zoning Districts in Santa Monica, the city’s single-family residential zones. The interim ordinance establishes temporary limits on the size and scale of new development in R1 neighborhoods in order to protect existing neighborhood character and form.

“This interim ordinance is both in direct response to resident concerns about large, speculative new construction and Council’s commitment to preserving the diversity and uniqueness of our residential neighborhoods,” said Mayor Ted Winterer. “A public process will begin soon to pave the way for a more permanent solution to R1 development standards.”

According to the city of Santa Monica website, in an analysis of new home size compared to existing homes over the past 3 years, city staff discovered that new homes are approximately two to three times larger than existing homes. They also looked at demolition data over the past 3 years, where the city of Santa Monica received approximately 70 applications per year with about 40 permits being issued each year.

“A core principle of the City’s adopted Land Use and Circulation Element (LUCE) is that the diversity and uniqueness of the City’s residential neighborhoods are protected by a policy framework under which the existing housing stock and character is respected, conserved, and enhanced. The LUCE identifies retention of the existing single-unit housing stock and design standards that allow for compatible development as important tools that promote the long-term stability of existing R1 neighborhoods,” states a press release from the city of Santa Monica.

Protecting the neighborhoods is part of a balanced land use initiative that points investment pressure away from existing neighborhoods by giving opportunities for housing production and local serving uses on commercial boulevards and transit-adjacent areas.

Key changes to the size and scale of new R1 construction include:

Height: Maximum building height up to 28 feet.

Maximum Parcel Coverage: Maximum parcel coverage is a ratio of building footprint to parcel size. The maximum parcel coverage shall not exceed 50 percent on a sliding scale with a maximum of 20 percent on the second floor.

Accessory Dwelling Units: ADUs are exempt from parcel coverage.

Second Floor Decks and Balconies: Maximum aggregate square footage of 400 square feet of second floor decks and balconies.

Complete planning or building permit applications submitted before February 24, 2018 do not have to follow these interim standards. Any application filed after that date must follow the interim standards.

This interim ordinance will be valid for 60 days from March 16, 2018. The interim ordinance may be extended before the end of the 60 days for a period up to 5 years.

The interim ordinance comes on the heels of the City Council’s January 9 direction to prioritize a comprehensive review of R1 development standards. The comprehensive review process is expected to begin in the second half of FY 2018-2019 and will involve a large public engagement process to identify the appropriate scale of new construction and additions in R1 neighborhoods.