SANTA MONICA—On Tuesday, January 25, the City Council of Santa Monica approved a long-contested interim ordinance as part of the City General Plan endorsed in July 2010. The zoning ordinance, called the Land Use and Circulation Element (LUCE), will limit new construction and development downtown in an effort to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

Critics allege that the restrictions will also limit affordable housing projects.  During the community input period of the new ordinance, Santa Monica land use attorney Chris Harding noted, the new ordinance “would make it more difficult to get affordable housing downtown.”

Proponents, on the other hand, see the ordinance as a positive step towards land use sustainability. Director of Planning and Community Development, Eileen Fogarty, remarked on moratoriums that Santa Monica “has wisely chosen not to implement a moratorium but to look at interim and temporary zoning ordinances as a way of giving the City the opportunity to prepare and determine community benefits, priorities, standards to protect neighborhoods, and to reduce green house gas emissions.”

The ordinance creates a long and complex process for new construction.  Specifically, buildings over 32-feet will undergo rigorous scrutiny as part of the citywide development process, and will be required to seek Development Agreements (DAs).

This new process may prove to be ineffectual, since it was found last year by the Santa Monica City Council that there was significant developer noncompliance with DAs.

Exercising extensive control over multiple areas of Santa Monica life, including taxi operation, bicycles, leaf blowers, plastic bags and smoking, the City Council is now extending its purview to small development projects.

The 60-day interim ordinance will serve as a bellwether to determine the potential success of more permanent development procedures.