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City Council Approves Slate of Housing Preservation and Production Measures

August 26, 2020 2:45 PM

City Council Approves Slate of Housing Preservation and Production Measures

At its meeting last night, the Santa Monica City Council approved four ordinances in support of preserving housing for long-term Santa Monicans and facilitating housing production, including affordable housing, in Santa Monica. These changes demonstrate Santa Monica’s leadership in addressing the region’s housing crisis, align with state law, and anticipate changes to the Housing Element and the Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA).

“With these housing measures, Santa Monica continues its pathbreaking work to preserve precious housing stock for residents and eliminate barriers to creating new housing, particularly affordable housing in our community,” said Interim City Manager Lane Dilg. “These steps move us closer to meeting local and regional housing goals in anticipation of preparation of our Housing Element next year.”

Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs)

In an effort to spur the production of accessory dwelling units as part of single-unit parcels and multi-unit developments under new state law (AB 68, AB 881, SB 13), ADUs in Santa Monica no longer require a minimum parcel size. A studio/1-bedroom ADU can now be up to 850 square feet and a two-bedroom or more ADU can now be up to 1,000 square feet with larger parcels eligible for a 1,200 square foot ADU. Junior Accessory Dwelling Units are allowed up to 500 square feet. Additionally, ADUs and JADUs are now exempt from parcel coverage or floor area calculations.

Density Bonuses for 100% Affordable Housing

Housing projects solely dedicated to affordable units now receive a maximum bonus of 80% or no density cap if the project is within a half-mile of a major transit stop, and up to three additional stories or 33 feet. With the extension the Interim Zoning Ordinance adopted in March 2020, 100% affordable housing projects and Tier 2 housing projects will continue to be fast tracked through an Administrative Approval process, as opposed to a Development Review Permit process. The streamlined approval process paired with the density bonuses available under state law are intended to help spur affordable housing production in the city.

New Leasing Requirements for Rental Units

The practice of entities renting out units between 31 – 365 days (defined as medium-term leases) removes valuable rental housing from the housing market. Building on Santa Monica’s successful short-term rental ordinance to protect the City’s rental housing stock for use as long-term permanent housing and the Rent Control Board’s 2018 amendment defining a person as an “individual human being,” Council took action to define that all rental housing in the City is for “natural persons as their primary residence.” Leases of at least one year in duration are also now required citywide and rental housing units cannot be furnished. The adopted ordinance prohibits advertising any lease of a residential rental unit that does not comply with these requirements. Violators of the new ordinance will be subject to fines and penalties.

Downtown Community Plan (DCP) Changes

Approved changes to the DCP allow Tier 3 housing projects near the Downtown Expo Station to be reviewed through a Development Review Permit process instead of the more costly and time-intensive Development Agreement process. This change applies to Tier 3 housing projects greater than 90,000 square feet adjacent to downtown’s transit hub within the Transit Adjacent District.  Development standards such as building height and floor area ratio remain unchanged, and DCP requirements for production of affordable housing are in place.  The Established Large Sites requirements established in the DCP would not be affected. Additionally, the definition of a housing project as defined in the DCP was revised to allow greater flexibility in the location of commercial uses within the first and second floors of a housing project.

For more information, review the agenda for the August 25, 2020 Council meeting and items 7. A-D at smgov.net/council.

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