Santa Monica Forward urges a transparent, public process for rent control updates

RE: June 26, 2018 Agenda Item 5A

Dear Mayor Winterer and Councilmembers:

Santa Monica Forward supports the intent of Item 5A, which authorizes staff to explore appropriate local responses to the possible repeal of the Costa-Hawkins Act.   We request that such responses be developed with a public, transparent process that solicits input from stakeholders and experts in the field of housing development and finance.  We also suggest that this process be a deliberative one and therefore not subject to any deadlines required for placing a measure on the November local ballot. The City may be faced with a significant decline in new housing construction and negative environmental impacts if a local response is selected in haste.  Further we believe that the Rent Control Board is the most appropriate City agency to carry out this Council direction.

We also ask that you request the Rent Control Board (RCB) to clarify the effect of the possible repeal of Costa-Hawkins on the Maximum Allowable Rents for pre-1979 rental units.  The City Council should also request RCB input on what can be accomplished through revision of its regulations versus a Charter Amendment.

In drafting the local response to the possible repeal of Costa-Hawkins this November, we ask that the Council direct staff to consider the following potential impacts of any such response:

New Rental Housing Construction – Any local response should not disincentivize the construction of new rental housing in light of the housing crisis facing the LA Region and the state.  There are also important environmental reasons for encouraging new housing construction, especially that which is transit adjacent. If the response proposes rent control coverage of new housing in the future, the effects on project cash flow and the resulting decrease in inclusionary units and other community benefits must be analyzed.

Neighborhood Preservation – Any local response should be analyzed from the standpoint of whether it encourages local rental property owners to go out of the rental housing business because it would make more economic sense to remove their rental units for condominium construction through Ellis or removal actions.

Impacts on Property Tax Revenues – Although revenue impacts should certainly not be the sole basis for planning decisions, any local response should analyze any potential loss in property tax revenues due to the potential decline in property values of affected rental property and the resulting impacts on SMMUSD and public services.

Administrative Burden – Presumably the program created as a local response to Costa-Hawkins repeal will be implemented by the Rent Control Board.  The administrative burden of this implementation must be analyzed and quantified.

We look forward to participating in the public dialogue on a local response to the possible repeal of Costa-Hawkins.  Thank you for your consideration of this important matter.

Statement on Shared Dockless Vehicles: Safer Streets Paramount; Dockless has a Lead Role in a New Model for Mobilityo

Honorable Councilmembers,

We thank City Staff’s thoughtful consideration of how to engage new dockless shared mobility operators in a way that achieves those goals. We strongly agree with the values the City has expressed to frame the policy context:

  • Put people and safety first.

  • Give all people access to mobility choices.

  • Pioneer a clean mobility future.

  • Design great streets for health and wellbeing.

  • Leverage private sector innovation in new mobility that serves community needs.

  • Strengthen government services with data-driven decision-making.

Transportation accounts for 64% of Santa Monica’s greenhouse gas emissions. The City should do everything in its power to help people find ways to get around without emitting pollution and getting stuck in traffic. It must do so while protecting the most vulnerable users of our streets: people walking, biking and now scooting.

The key focal point of debate has been on the merits and methods of capping the size of dockless shared fleets. Arbitrary caps on fleet size are not necessary nor sufficient to ensure ubiquitous mobility options and safety for all.

A low cap will harm users, requiring them to walk longer distances to access a dockless shared mobility device. Because there are roughly 700 blocks in Santa Monica, a cap of 500 would mean that if the mobility devices were universally distributed, a typical user would have to walk at least 1.5 blocks on average to access a device. In practice, it will be often much higher, as dockless bikes and scooters will concentrate at busy destinations like downtown and the beach.

Furthermore, more operators is not necessarily better. Few users will have three apps on their phones, and will pass several devices on the way to the device of their preferred provider. Fewer operators with more vehicles per operator makes the service more accessible, ensures less unnecessary clutter of duplicative fleets, and increases accountability.

For these reasons, the council should consider one or two operators instead of three, and either higher caps or caps based on device utilization rather static and arbitrary numbers.  

Furthermore, the proposed regulations should consider device characteristics such as size and weight. A key challenge with dockless mobility devices is that some users leave the devices in sidewalks or in ADA access zones.  Devices that are smaller or lighter and easier to move from these zones provide helpful samaritans opportunity to assist Santa Monica in managing the beginning stages of new, popular, and sustainable transportation options.

Regardless of whether the council recommends one or more providers, the City should require providers to make real-time vehicle position data publicly available in a standards-based format.  The data should be in the GBFS bikeshare data format, which is the standard used by Breeze/Westside Bike Connect, and other dockless vehicle providers. A link to the GBFS data repository should be released to the City, which can publish the information and work with third-party apps so that dockless shared mobility devices from multiple providers are shown alongside new and long-standing sustainable transportation options such as Breeze Bikeshare, Big Blue Bus, and Metro buses.

Santa Monica Forward Supports a Safer 17th Street

Santa Monica Forward sent the following message to Planning Commissioners upon their consideration of safety improvements to the 17th Street Corridor:

Dear Chair Fresco and Planning Commissioners,

We support the staff proposal to make 17th Street safer and more livable for residents, workers, and visitors. We urge approval and rapid implementation. The project is consistent with our position paper on Transit and Mobility and our guiding principles on traffic and transportation:

TRAFFIC & TRANSPORTATION: Traffic has a negative effect on our quality of life. Current traffic conditions will only get better by greatly enhancing the safety and convenience of getting around without a car for able-bodied people or people with disabilities. We support walkable neighborhoods, safe routes to school and work, complete bicycle networks, the Big Blue Bus, the Expo Light Rail, and the Metro Bus. We must design and manage streets with the goal of eliminating deaths of people using our roads. Future homes and workplaces should include aggressive traffic demand management programs to discourage driving by employees and residents whenever possible.

Santa Monica Forward issues recommendations on zoning for Accessory Dwelling Units


That, if the City Council chooses to count any Accessory Dwelling Unit square footage toward lot coverage in R1 Districts,  this square footage shall be the difference between 800 square feet and the total square footage of the proposed ADU. (As it now stands the R1 Interim Zoning Ordinance exempts any ADU square footage from counting toward lot coverage.)


There is an Interim Zoning Ordinance (IZO) in effect that re-defines development standards for the construction of or additions to single family houses in R1 Districts.  These new interim standards are:

  1. The height of any new single family residence shall not exceed 28 feet.  This brings the area north of Montana into consistency with all other R1 districts in the city.

  2. The maximum lot coverage for a new houses or add-on to an existing house shall not exceed 30% for the first floor and 20% for the second floor, bringing the total allowable lot coverage to 50%.  This reduces the pre-existing lot coverage maximum of 35% for the first floor and 28% for the second floor, or 63% for the entire site. Maximum lot coverage for one-storey houses remains at 50%.

Permanent amendment of the ZO to revise development standards for R1 Districts is expected to occur in late 2018.


State Law (AB2299-Bloom) requires local jurisdictions to accommodate the development of ADU’s.  Its major provisions are:

  1. An ADU can be up to 1,200 square feet but shall not exceed the square footage of the primary residence by more than 50%.

  2. Relaxed parking requirements specify that parking for an ADU need not be provided if it is within a certain distance of public transportation, which is all of Santa Monica.

  3. Replacement parking for the primary residence need not be covered and can consist of tandem parking in the driveway.

  4. ADU approvals shall be ministerial.

State Law also defines an ADU as either attached to the primary residence or a free standing structure.


The Planning Commission has recommended amendment of the ZO to incorporate all the provisions of AB2299.  Previously the ZO had included ADU requirements in the section relating to Accessory Structures, which cannot exceed 650 SF.  ADU’s will now have its own ZO section. The PC has also set the maximum square footage for an ADU at 1,200SF. The City Attorney believes this is necessary for compliance with AB2299.



When the R1 IZO was adopted, the supporters were fine with exempting ADU square footage from calculation of lot coverage.  They assumed that the maximum size for an ADU would be what is currently in the Code, i.e. 650 square feet. That square footage has been increased to 1,200 square feet by the Planning Commission per directions from the City Attorney.

The IZO supporters are very concerned that this increase will undermine the anti-mansionization effort by allowing the construction of oversized homes that attach a 1,200 SF ADU to the new house.  Attached ADU’s must have separate entrances, a bathroom and kitchen and a wall separating it from the primary residence. This will be very difficult if not impossible to enforce.

A compromise has been reached (I think) with a few members of NOMA to require that any ADU square footage above 800 SF be counted toward lot coverage.  I support this compromise for several reasons:

  1. It will discourage the new development of oversized houses.

  2. It will incentivize the construction of ADU’s on existing lots with primary residences of 1,600 SF or less, hopefully discouraging their replacement with new, larger houses.  (Sunset Park especially) This is because of the State restriction that ADU’s shall be no more than 50% the size of the primary residence.

  3. 800 SF is a perfectly adequate size for a 2-bedroom ADU.  This is actually the square footage the PC was proposing before the 1,200 SF issue arose.


This recommendation furthers the following SMF priorities:

  1. Increase the supply of affordable housing.

  2. Facilitate aging in place options.

  3. Protect economic and social diversity.

Santa Monica Forward Supports a New City Mobility Commission

In 2015, the City Council set its sights on developing a new model for citywide mobility.  Tonight, the Council will hold a special mobility study session to consider the future of the Big Blue Bus and the city's vision zero efforts to eliminate traffic fatalities by 2025.  

Santa Monica Forward supports the city's transition to a new model of mobility, and proposes ten changes to accomplish that vision:

  1. The Big Blue Bus should transition from a transit operator to a mobility manager

  2. Take an industry best practices approach to improving operations

  3. Santa Monica must think and act regionally to better serve users

  4. Santa Monica should formally adopt and pursue a “Transit First” strategy

  5. Innovation is critical to the future of mobility, but only a standards-based approach results in sustainable technological innovation.

  6. No amount of traffic death is acceptable

  7. The City should invest resources to improve equity

  8. Streets are our largest public space and should be managed in the public interest

  9. Make data-driven decisions

  10. Pursue a new model for governance and service delivery, including a new Mobility Commission to oversee a new Mobility Department

These recommendations are detailed in a new position paper from Santa Monica Forward.

Santa Monica Forward Endorses Slate of Four Council Candidates, Yes on Measure V (SMC Bond)

Santa Monica Forward enthusiastically supports Councilmembers Terry O'Day and Gleam Davis, Mayor Tony Vazquez, and Mayor Pro Tempore Ted Winterer for re-election to the Santa Monica City Council. Forward also supports a YES vote on Measure V, the bond to improve and repair Santa Monica College facilities, this November.