SANTA MONICA—On Tuesday, October 12, the Santa Monica City Council adopted the 2021-2029 6th Cycle Housing Element Update (5-2 vote) and associated Environmental Impact Report (7-0 vote) for Santa Monica’s 8-year housing strategy to focus on affordable housing production and complies with state requirement that the city demonstrate zoning capacity for 8,895 new units, of which 69% must be affordable.
According to a press release from the city of Santa Monica, the final plan is after 15 months of public outreach and includes feedback from the community, City Council, Planning Commission, Housing Commission, Rent Control Board, and the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD). The city’s adoption of the Housing Element is ahead of the State mandated deadline of Friday, October 15.
“The final Housing Element Update will expand Santa Monica’s leadership on affordable housing production on the westside and living our values of equity and inclusion by leveraging both public and private land for new affordable units,” said Mayor Sue Himmelrich. “The road to get here was not easy, but we have taken a balanced approach that complies with the State’s requirements while also maintaining the character of our neighborhoods.”
Santa Monica’s Housing Element update emphasizes on incentivizing housing production, in specific affordable housing; keeping existing residents housed; focusing housing near daily services and in areas that previously have not accommodated housing; and addressing equitable housing access that overcomes historical discriminatory practices and expands housing choice. The highlights helping achieve such goals include:
-Amending the City’s Land Use and Circulation Element (LUCE), zoning ordinance, and associated specific and area plans to add multi-unit housing as a permitted use in non-residential zones where housing is currently prohibited.
-Streamlining the entitlement process for Housing Projects.
-Revising development and design standards to ensure that housing projects are feasible and incentivized over commercial development.
-Amending the Zoning Ordinance to establish a 100% affordable housing overlay for moderate-income (up to 120% AMI) housing projects in targeted areas of the City such as the Downtown area, Bergamot area, and the immediate area around the 17th Street E-Line station.
-Updating the City’s Affordable Housing Production Program to increase the number of affordable housing units at all income levels.
-Updating the City’s Density Bonus Ordinance for consistency with State law.
-Committing City-owned sites for the production of 100% affordable housing, with consideration of other community-serving purposes, including, but not limited to, green space, place making, and/or community-serving commercial, and other revenue generating uses.
-Zoning for a variety of housing types including special needs housing and housing access for persons with disabilities.
-Incentivizing affordable housing development on surface parking lots of community assembly uses, such as religious congregation sites.
-Incentivizing housing production on surface parking lots of residentially zoned sites adjacent to commercial-fronting boulevards.
-Restricting the removal of existing rental units for site redevelopment and require that protected units are replaced.
-Providing new housing choices and affordability in high opportunity areas through incentives for additional Accessory Dwelling Units in single-family residential neighborhoods.
-Seeking funding sources to support rental assistance for vulnerable individuals and households at-risk of displacement.
-Maintaining and expanding the Preserving Our Diversity (POD) program and the anti-discrimination tenant protection program, among others.
City Council approved the staff recommendations with the exception that they moved up the date to issue an RFP for at least one city-owned site from December 31, 2023 to June 30, 2023, and added the possibility for revenue generating uses. They moved up the date to reimagine the Affordable Housing Production Program and align it with the affordable housing production measures in the Housing Element Update to June 30, 2022. They voted to include a cover letter outlining the many steps Santa Monica is taking to produce and protect housing as well as the challenges the city will face in producing the housing required through the Regional Housing Needs Assessment, and requesting state support in doing so.
With the new changes, the final plan will be submitted to HCD for a 90-day review period to ensure the plan is compliant with State law. Staff will then work with HCD towards Housing Element certification. To learn more, visit www.santamonica.gov/housing-element-update.