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RE: Item 8A - Plaza Santa Monica

June 22, 2020

RE: Item 8A - Plaza Santa Monica (June 23, 2020)

Dear Mayor McKeown and Councilmembers:

Santa Monica Forward (SMF) recommends that the City Council approve the resumption of negotiations for development of the Plaza at Santa Monica project and that the proposed use of affordable housing funds and other business terms be amended to ensure equitable community benefits and to further City objectives and values. The proposed project will create hundreds of construction jobs and well paid permanent jobs with benefits, significant community benefits, including affordable housing, and much needed City revenues, which will contribute to restoration of City services to levels that meet the needs of our residents.

SMF agrees with staff that requiring on-site affordable housing is not a cost effective approach and that a greater number of affordable units could be produced on alternative sites. But we also believe that the proposed project should make a meaningful financial contribution to meeting the city’s affordable housing needs as well as its compliance with achieving the anticipated 6th Cycle RHNA goals. Specifically, 770 newly constructed units of lower income housing must be under construction or completed for each year of the 2021-2029 Housing Element. Of these units, almost 560 new units must be affordable to very low and low income households. Since there are little or no funds allocated for the construction of new affordable housing in the proposed 2020-2021/2021-2022 City Budget, achieving the City’s RHNA goals will be a major challenge.

Although the City’s inclusionary housing requirements will help meet a portion of the RHNA mandate and Measure R compliance, it is important to know that only 32% of the affordable units produced since the passage of Measure R in the early 1990’s were the result of Development Agreements or inclusionary projects. This fact speaks to the need for the City to assume the major responsibility for subsidizing new affordable housing development through land transfers, future funding, land use revisions and other creative measures. The City should also actively support new and expanded State housing financing programs to leverage the City’s contributions.

SMF therefore recommends that affordable housing funds generated by the proposed project be used for housing development substantially beyond the level attainable by City resources. Any affordable housing funds to be generated by the project should be used for land acquisition and affordable housing development in the downtown area and/or in areas well-served by public transportation. This land acquisition program should be limited to properties not owned by a public agency.

SMF also has the following recommendations regarding the proposed business terms for negotiation of the Development Agreement.

Local Hire. The Development Agreement must include a robust local hire requirement for the project during construction and once operations commence. This will necessitate a community outreach plan, to be approved by the City, and regular monitoring for compliance. The requirement should provide that best faith efforts must be made and demonstrated by the Developer and the Contractor to ensure that all concessions serving the construction site and construction workers, including but not limited to food, protective and other equipment, sanitation, and other support services, be covered by targeted local hire obligations and the use of local businesses.

Parking. The 675-725 parking spaces in the proposed project is excessive and contrary to the City’s objective of reducing automobile dependency. SMF recommends that the 150-200 public parking spaces be deleted or reduced and that the project-specific parking be re-evaluated and reduced. If parking is reduced, the cost savings should be translated into increased community benefits, including affordable housing.

Equitable Community Benefits. SMF supports the negotiation of business terms which support economic development and economic resiliency for residents and businesses in the city’s most vulnerable communities. Specific terms could include a set-aside of commercial office space to be made available to new locally-owned businesses, financial support for child care services to residents of vulnerable communities, and/or financial or technical support for local businesses. In order to advance the goal of a diverse and thriving multigenerational

Downtown community, the specific terms aimed at equitable benefits must be negotiated only after careful review of available social and economic data sources (per DCP Policy LU1.4) as well as meaningful and timely input from the vulnerable communities targeted for these benefits.

Transportation Demand Management. A TDM plan for the project’s construction phase should include Developer-paid transportation subsidies for construction workers to encourage their use of public transportation.

SMF supports all other business terms set forth in the staff report. We are particularly excited about the public open space component of the project and the opportunities it provides for entertainment events. SMF strongly supports fully accessible programming for this space that educates residents and visitors about the city’s historic and current cultural diversity.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment. We look forward to a productive dialogue as we move forward.


Abby Arnold Carl Hansen

Co-chair, Santa Monica Forward Co-chair, Santa Monica Forward

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