The Santa Monica City Council
The Santa Monica City Council

Less than a month after the Santa Monica City Council narrowly voted to remove the option of building 4- to 5-story apartments or condos on Wilshire and Santa Monica boulevards, Mayor Kevin McKeown wants to vote on whether to further reduce housing options.

The proposal, added to tonight’s Council agenda at the specific request of McKeown, would ask the Council to reconsider allowing the possibility of 4-story projects east of 20th Street along Colorado and on the south side of Broadway by further amending the city’s Land Use and Circulation Element (LUCE).

The agenda reads: “Request of Mayor McKeown that the Council vote to reconsider, on June 23rd, whether to allow Tier 3 development in an area designated Mixed Use Boulevard Low on Colorado Avenue east of 20th Street and on the south side of Broadway east of 20th Street.”

This motion comes despite the fact that McKeown, along with Mayor Pro Tem Tony Vazquez and Councilmembers Ted Winterer and Sue Himmelrich, voted on May 5 to maintain the 4-story options along Colorado and Broadway as part of a motion to disallow 4- to 5-story residential buildings on Wilshire and Santa Monica.

“Compromises were made throughout the process to reach agreement on a zoning ordinance. To reopen the item so soon after adoption seems to undermine public participation,” said Councilmember Terry O’Day, one of the three Council members who voted against removing housing options from the boulevards on May 5.

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McKeown said that he put the motion on the agenda simply to clarify the votes taken at the May 5 meeting, saying that a vote Wednesday would be preliminary.

Councilmembers Pam O’Connor and Gleam Davis also opposed the plans to remove housing options from Wilshire and Santa Monica at the May 5 meeting.

“For a group of people who claim to support housing, I’m actually, quite honestly, stunned that we’re not erring on the side of favoring housing,” Davis said at the earlier meeting.

Though the LUCE was approved unanimously in 2010, these revisions were made as part of the city’s zoning ordinance update process. The LUCE originally allowed mid-rise residential buildings along the city’s commercial boulevards to prevent development pressures from building up in existing neighborhoods and eventually resulting in the displacement of existing rental housing, most of which is under rent control.

“If we are genuinely worried about gentrification, what we need to do is build housing options for the wealthy people who will find a way to make it to Santa Monica that doesn’t involve evicting existing tenants. And that was really the LUCE vision,” Davis said at the May 5 meeting.

O’Connor, also speaking at the May 5 meeting, said, “We are putting a target on especially rent-controlled buildings, a target on those multi-family buildings. […] We aren’t producing enough housing.”

During her comments at that meeting, O’Connor cited the report released in March by Sacramento’s Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO)  that showed L.A. County alone underbuilt by one million housing units over the last 40 years. While Santa Monica has, in recent years, begun building housing, especially Downtown, that rate dramatically slowed last year in the wake of the scuttling of plans to build significant housing on the Expo-adjacent Papermate site.

While the May 5 motion eliminated the possibility for new 4- to 5-story residential buildings along Wilshire and Santa Monica, it made an exception for building 100 percent affordable housing. It is unclear if tonight’s 13 item will make the same exception.