Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words

City Council Tweaks, Approves SM Housing Element Update

Panel removes proposal to rezone selected single-family neighborhoods

The Santa Monica City Council this week reviewed and provided input to the draft Housing Element update, which "prioritizes 100% affordable housing in city-owned land" and "addresses historic discrimination and satisfies affirmatively furthering fair housing."

The Council discussed and approved the various changes to the plan – some of which were recommended by the Planning Commission – and directed staff to transmit the draft Santa Monica Housing Element to the state's Housing and Community Development.

City officials stated the revised housing plan complies with the state's requirement that calls for Santa Monica to build 8,895 units – 6168 of which must be affordable – over the next eight years.

At its Tuesday night's meeting, the Council approved the following changes to the housing plan:

Remove the proposed program to rezone selected portions of R-1 (single-family) neighborhoods to increase density and replace with "a commitment to continue a more expansive community conversation around how to address past exclusionary zoning practices" in future land use decisions;

Require a minimum of 15% affordable units in housing projects with the affordable units provided equally among all affordable income levels;

Remove the up to 80% AMI (Area Median Income) citywide 100% affordable housing overlay but support the moderate-income (up to 120% AMI) 100% affordable housing overlay in targeted areas of the city such as the downtown area, Bergamot area, and the immediate ½-mile area around the 17th Street station;

Stipulate that city-owned land be committed for 100% affordable housing with consideration for community-serving purposes;

Allow one additional ADU on single-unit dwelling parcels to provide additional rental housing opportunities in single-unit residential districts;

Consider amending the Municipal Code to adopt requirements that make permanent and potentially expand upon the anti-displacement requirements of Senate Bill 330 to ensure that protected units proposed to be demolished in order to construct a new housing development project are replaced;

Encourage and provide incentives for the adaptive reuse of existing commercial tenant space for residential use and also allow an adaptive reuse of existing ground floor commercial space for artists and live-work use; and

Adopt standards that support the production of affordable housing on surface parking lots owned by religious congregations, including allowing some, but not more than 50%, market-rate units to support affordable units.

"Our City Council has embraced the concept of 100% affordable housing on city-owned land, a concept that can be a foundation for robust affordable housing production for all communities, particularly those with high land costs," said Mayor Sue Himmelrich. "This Council understands that our community is more diverse because of our leadership in the production of affordable housing, and our direction is intended to help make that possible while also complying with state mandates on housing production overall."

City officials said the next step in the housing element process is for the California Housing and Community Development to review and comment on the draft update. The comments will return to City Council for a final review and adoption before October 15.

Once adopted by the City Council, the Housing Element will guide housing production and preservation in Santa Monica for the next eight years. It will "provide stability for existing residents and create housing opportunities for all​ while protecting air quality and natural resources through land uses that enable people to live in housing with access to parks, schools, and civic infrastructure," city officials said.

This update comes as state law has significantly changed over the last three years, limiting local control and strengthening enforcement mechanisms such as withholding state funding from communities who do not meet the mandated housing requirements, city officials said.

The Housing Element update is available at    


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