Santa Monica City Council approves temporary zone changes for the boardwalk
By Dolores Quintana and Sam Catanzaro
Hotels and liquor stores are among the new types of businesses allowed to operate on Third Street Promenade.
At the Santa Monica City Council meeting on September 28, lawmakers approved a temporary zoning ordinance designed to make it easier for a variety of businesses to work on Third Street Promenade. The iconic shopping mile has faced immense challenges in recent years with high vacancy rates, which were exacerbated by the pandemic. Downtown Santa Monica Inc. – the non-profit organization responsible for managing the boardwalk – has formulated the Third Street Promenade Stabilization and Economic Vitality Plan to address these challenges.
The plan is to freshen up The Promenade and make it a more diverse marketplace with expanded retail and dining options to open up the area to smaller and more diverse businesses rather than larger retail chains.
“Third Street Promenade is an iconic public street and meeting place for everyone and will be an important part of our economic recovery,” said Mayor Sue Himmelrich. “In these three blocks we can creatively adapt both retail and public space for new uses, tenants and experiences that are both a magnet for our residents and a magnet for the region.”
The IZO of September 28, valid until December 2022, is intended to achieve this goal by increasing the number of pedestrians and opening lower-priced retail space for many other companies. Some of the new businesses that will be allowed include pet stores and veterinary services, tattoo and body modification salons, medical and dental offices, and hotels and liquor stores. In addition, City Manager David White spoke about extending the road closures on the Arizona Avenue area, where the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market is taking place on Saturday evening, in order to open a “night market”. There would also be a relaxation of codes such as the FAR or Floor Area Ratio calculation to enable the use of roof areas.
Some council members refused to allow liquor stores, including council member Phil Brock.
“I don’t see why this is a desired use on Third Street Promenade now, in the past, or in the future,” Brock said.
Councilor Laura Negrete raised the number of objections to the potential approval of tattoo parlors in the area during the meeting.
“Tattoos are pretty expensive. I have it. They are an art form and you would be surprised who has them these days. We happen to have a tattoo artist who is well known in the community who does tattoos that I know I can’t afford to get from him. But the clientele he brings in are the people you are looking for beyond the celebrity clientele [for] to open the room, ”said Negrete.
In addition, the new plan allows: to streamline existing land use permits by minimizing the applicability of conditional use permits (CUPs), minor use permits (MUPs), and other discretionary permits; reduces the minimum active ground floor requirement from 50 feet to 25 feet from the promenade property line; Provide direct access to the upper floors and the offices on the rear ground floor from the promenade.
Another element of the plan is to increase the number of community events, programs and activations in the public space of the inner city. To accomplish this, the council authorized the city manager to negotiate with DTSM, Inc. over the frequency of room usage, permit fees, revenue sharing opportunities for use of Lot 27 and Arizona Avenue, and the boardwalk sales program.
In the public comment, there was some concern that people affected by homelessness are also negatively impacting the area. The city council meeting came the day after Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva severely criticized city leaders’ plans to tackle homelessness on and around the boardwalk at an open house.
“I guarantee you that there are likely to be city-level regulations that prohibit certain activities, but they are not enforced through orders from the city council,” Villanueva said at the meeting organized by the promenade property owner John Alle. On the open day, Lt. Geoffrey Deedrick of the Sheriff’s Homeless Outreach Service Team (HOST), Pastor Ron Hooks and Santa Monica City Councilors Phil Brock and Oscar de la Torre.
“It’s very simple: we need a clean, safe downtown Santa Monica from the boardwalk to the parking garages,” Brock said during the open house. “In some cases, our city government has relinquished its responsibility for the safety and cleanliness of this area.”