City Council Approves Changes to Development Standards for Single-Unit Dwellings

October 23, 2019

City Council Approves Changes to Development Standards for Single-Unit Dwellings

SANTA MONICA, Calif. – After a year and a half of public engagement, the Santa Monica City Council approved changes to the development standards for Santa Monica’s single-unit residential (R1) neighborhoods. Early last year, City Council directed staff to prioritize the review of R1 standards after neighborhood groups shared concerns over the size and scale of new single-family home construction. On January 24, 2018, Council approved temporary standards through an Interim Zoning Ordinance.

The goals of the new standards are to address the size of new home construction in the context of neighborhood scale, to incentivize the retention of existing homes, and to make the standards more user-friendly.  

“We understand that there are varying needs in our community and this update balances the desire to preserve the character that makes Santa Monica’s residential neighborhoods so attractive and the need for families to build based on changing needs,” said Mayor Gleam Davis. “We’ve focused on incentivizing remodels over new construction and allowing more flexibility on smaller lots.”

The ordinance includes the following changes to new construction for R1 neighborhoods, which total over 6,000 parcels in four neighborhoods: North of Montana, North of Wilshire, Sunset Park, and Expo/Pico. This update significantly streamlines the standards across the four R1 districts. The key changes are:

  • Height: Maximum building height is 28 feet, the same as the IZO. Flexibility is provided for flat-roofed structures allowing a vertical wall height limitation of 23 feet.
  • Maximum Parcel Coverage: Maximum parcel coverage controls the size a home can be on a parcel. The maximum parcel coverage is 45% for new construction and 55% for one and two-story additions to existing homes.
  • Upper-Story Stepbacks: This controls the mass of the second story and determines how far back the second story needs to be additionally set back. The size of the second story will now be determined based on total parcel coverage and not the maximum buildable elevation. Each stepback areas shall be at least 1% of total parcel area.
  • Upper-Story Outdoor Space: Individual balconies, decks, terraces, first-story roof decks, and similar outdoor spaces may not exceed 3% of parcel area or 300 square feet, whichever is less. Rear facing balconies, decks, terraces, first-story roof decks, and similar outdoor spaces larger than 100 square feet in the rear half of the parcel shall be set back a minimum distance of 20% of the parcel width from the side parcel lines to preserve neighbor privacy.
  • Accessory Dwelling Units: ADUs are exempt from parcel coverage. New state law incentivizing ADU production will impact local standards and will be taken up by Council at a later date.

New incentives for retaining existing homes are incorporated into the R1 zoning update, including eliminating enhanced parking requirements for major additions and allowing for flexibility around setbacks and stepbacks for home additions. Requirements for enclosed garages have also been eliminated to allow flexibility in locating parking on a parcel. Lots less than 5,000 square feet are allowed additional parcel coverage.

These standards will become effective January 1, 2020.

Community engagement for R1 development standards began last January with a series of technical working group sessions followed by three community open houses in May 2019. The Planning Commission reviewed community input and provided recommendations at their June 19 and August 7, 2019 meetings.

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