This settlement does not allow for new development, it limits new development – Caroline Torosis.
Last night, the Santa Monica City Council approved a settlement with WS, a developer who had submitted 13 of the 16 “Builder’s Remedy” projects. Builder’s Remedy projects are those submitted during a temporary suspension of the city’s zoning codes after it fell out of compliance with state regulations that require cities to construct a certain number of new houses. The Builder’s Remedy projects WS submitted are much larger than what would have been allowed normally.
Under the settlement WS will withdraw their 13 projects and agrees to not refile three of them. Nine of the other 10 projects can be refiled under existing zoning ordinances. The last, at 1433 Euclid can be refiled under the existing zoning ordinance or as it would have been filed under the Builder’s Remedy. In exchange, the city will drop its legal challenges to these developments properties, will provide expedited approval for the 10 remaining projects, will work with the developer to ensure it receives the maximum density and affordable housing bonuses available and other concessions. Both the city and developer will also drop existing cases against each other.
You can read our coverage from Monday of the settlement here, the staff report here and watch or listen to the Council debate here. If you’re completely baffled by what’s going on with the Builder’s Remedy or are just joining the conversation, read our story from back in October explaining how the city found itself in this predicament.
The vote to approve the settlement was a unanimous 7-0, but the Council seemed mostly to accept it grudgingly.
“I was as shocked as many of you were to see these tall buildings and the impact it would have on our programs and our schools. I’m glad that we’re here now, and I’m ready to vote to make this go away,” stated Councilmember Oscar De La Torre.
However, the Councilmembers clearly felt the need to act. Responding to a question from Councilmember Jesse Zwick, the Assistant City Attorney Susan Zola responded that the city had a deadline of yesterday (i.e. the day of the meeting) to approve the settlement that staff and the developer had worked on for months.
Oddly, Councilmember Phil Brock asked the same question 10 minutes later, although he used an analogy from Cinderella about coaches and pumpkins. There were no fairy godmothers. The answer stayed the same.
The seventeen public speakers were overwhelmingly opposed to the legal settlement between the developer and the city. Most were also parents or staff for a pair of private schools: the Little Dolphins Pre-School and New Roads School. The speakers were concerned that the height of the buildings adjacent to their campuses and that a traffic study is needed to make sure that access to their schools isn’t hindered by the new buildings.
Dave Rand, an attorney for WS, assured those testifying that they would have a public process and reach out to the communities and schools before the finalized projects begin to move forward.
While all the Councilmembers expressed sympathy for those testifying against the proposed settlement based on the fears of large development, Councilmember Caroline Torosis called out the misinformation that was spread online and in the press since the potential settlement was announced.
“It seems like there’s been a lot of confusion and false narratives about what is happening and what is not…We are doing this to get rid of the Builder’s Remedy projects,” Torosis stated. “This is a good deal for us.”
A chart posted on social media by Santa Monica Forward co-chair Brad Ewing shows that under the settlement there will certainly be less new units under the settlement than if the projects had been allowed to move forward under the Builder’s Remedy.
Even if the developer builds the maximum number of units allowed and receives every bonus it can from the city, it would still construct over 850 units less than if they would have been filed under Builder’s Remedy (3,976 units versus an estimated 3,108 units under the settlement). Buildings covered by the settlement will also have 15% affordable units (with the affordable units being pooled into a single 100% affordable building), as opposed to 20% affordable under the Builder’s Remedy The exact number of units won’t be known until exact plans are submitted. Santa Monica Forward did not have a public position on whether or not the city should accept the settlement.
The settlement has no impact on the three remaining projects filed under the Builder’s Remedy.