Santa Monica City Council Approves Interim Zoning Ordinance to Reduce Size and Scale of New Construction for Single-Family Homes

January 24, 2018

Santa Monica City Council Approves Interim Zoning Ordinance to Reduce Size and Scale of New Construction for Single-Family Homes

SANTA MONICA, Calif. – In the early hours of January 24, 2018, Santa Monica City Council voted to approve an interim zoning ordinance establishing interim development standards for parcel coverage, building height, size of second floor decks and balconies, and accessory dwelling units for R1 Zoning Districts in Santa Monica, the City’s single-family residential zones. The interim ordinance establishes temporary limits on the size and scale of new development in R1 neighborhoods in order to protect existing neighborhood character and form.

“This interim ordinance is both in direct response to resident concerns about large, speculative new construction and Council’s commitment to preserving the diversity and uniqueness of our residential neighborhoods,” said Mayor Ted Winterer. “A public process will begin soon to pave the way for a more permanent solution to R1 development standards.” 

In an analysis of new home size compared to existing homes over the past three years, City staff found that new homes have been approximately two to three times larger than existing homes. In looking at demolition data over the past three years, the City has received approximately 70 applications per year with about 40 permits being issued each year. For more details, see a table on page 3 of the staff report. 

Here are the key changes to the size and scale of new R1 construction.  

  • Height: Maximum building height up to 28 feet.  
  • Maximum Parcel Coverage: Maximum parcel coverage is a ratio of building footprint to parcel size. The maximum parcel coverage shall not exceed 50 percent on a sliding scale with a maximum of 20 percent on the second floor.  
  • Accessory Dwelling Units: ADUs are exempt from parcel coverage.  
  • Second Floor Decks and Balconies: Maximum aggregate square footage of 400 square feet of second floor decks and balconies.  

Complete planning or building permit applications submitted prior to February 24, 2018 do not have to follow these interim standards. Any application filed after that date must follow the interim standards. 

This interim ordinance will go before the Council for second reading on February 13, 2018. If the Council adopts this ordinance on second reading, it will become effective 30 days thereafter for a period of 60 days. The interim ordinance may be extended for a period up to five years. 

The interim ordinance comes on the heels of Council’s January 9, 2018 direction to prioritize a comprehensive review of R1 development standards.  The comprehensive review process is anticipated to begin in the second half of FY 2018-19 and will involve a significant public engagement process to identify the appropriate scale of new construction and additions in R1 neighborhoods. 



A core principle of the City’s adopted Land Use and Circulation Element (LUCE) is that the diversity and uniqueness of the City’s residential neighborhoods are protected by a policy framework under which the existing housing stock and character is respected, conserved, and enhanced. The LUCE identifies retention of the existing single-unit housing stock and design standards that allow for compatible development as important tools that promote the long-term stability of existing R1 neighborhoods. 

The protection of neighborhoods is part of a balanced land use strategy that redirects investment pressure away from existing neighborhoods by providing opportunities for housing production and local serving uses on commercial boulevards and transit-adjacent areas.  

Photo: John Mozzer

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