During the Builder’s Remedy debacle, when the city temporarily lost zoning authority because it passed a zoning plan that didn’t conform to state standards; 16 large developments earned automatic approval that were oversized compared to what the city would allow in normal circumstances. While the city eventually passed a plan that conformed with state law, the 16 large projects were allowed to go forward. The impact of the city’s slow-growth politics in a state experiencing a housing crisis created the exact opposite circumstance than what they hoped.

However, the city has tentatively reached an agreement with WS, a development company owned by the controversial Neil Shekhter, that ends the special approval for the builder’s remedy projects in exchange for a number of concessions. The city council is expected to approve the settlement at tomorrow night’s meeting (agenda, Item 3b).

The city has promised a quickened ministerial (i.e. no public meetings, no ability to reject a project if it conforms to the zoning code) process for the 10 of the 13 projects, which will be scaled down to fit in the existing zoning code. The other three projects, all proposed in multi-family residential areas, will be permanently withdrawn. The city has also made some other major concessions:

  • WS can now pool the 15 percent inclusionary affordable units required for market-rate projects into a single 100 percent affordable housing project,
  • WS will receive a density bonus waivers and concessions that allow for more market rate units as though the affordable units were provided on-site,
  • WS will be allowed to build more car parking in the Downtown area. The current community plan calls for .5 spaces per unit. It will be doubled for WS.increase in the Downtown Community Plan maximum parking requirement from 0.5 to 1.0 spaces,”
  • To pave the way for the ministerial process, the City Council has the option to adopt an ordinance that would give WS local incentives.

In return, the city will see WS build far smaller projects with both fewer market-rate and fewer affordable units than it would have if the 13 projects had stayed “Builder’s Remedy” projects. The total number of units in these projects is not known at the moment, each project will be approved individually, but as they will conform to existing local zoning they will have to have far fewer units.

The no-growth special interest group Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City (SMCLC) is unhappy about the deal cut between WS and the city and is urging the city council to reject it. Having learned nothing from how its no-growth lobbying and advocacy directly led to the Builder’s Remedy fiasco, SMCLC is laying the blame for the need to settle with WS on the staff and implying that the settlement is a sweetheart deal.

“Now staff is recommending the Council approve a settlement – a settlement that doesn’t say what would be built under this agreement or how it would differ from the over 4,000 units and up to 20-story projects originally filed,” SMCLC wrote in a letter. This statement is mild compared to what they gave as a statement to the Daily Press where it called the settlement a “mega-development agreement.” 

The 13 projects covered in the deal include ones at: 1437 6th street, 601 Colorado Avenue, 1518-24 7th Street, 1443 Lincoln Boulevard, 3030 Nebraska Avenue, 2901 Santa Monica Boulevard, 1415-27 5th Street, 1557 7th Street, 1238 7th Street, 1925 Broadway, 12381242 10th Street, 1007 Lincoln Boulevard and 1038 10th Street.

There is no changes to the Builder’s Remedy projects at the other three sites.

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