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Santa Monica May Have To Rubber-Stamp Up To 5,000 New Residences

Santa Monica allowed its housing element to fall out of compliance, and now the famously development-averse city could be on the hook to OK nearly 5,000 new units.

Santa Monica may have to allow development of 5,000 units, even if they don't comply with city zoning rules.

A dozen projects representing 4,797 residential units have been submitted to the city for approval since the city's housing element fell out of compliance. That noncompliant status means that Santa Monica's zoning rules were suspended temporarily. Any projects that aren't proven to have a specific negative impact on the health or safety of the city get rubber-stamped, the Santa Monica Daily Press reported.

In a city where moving larger development projects through the approval process can take nearly a decade, rubber-stamping that many units at once is a dramatic departure from the norm. Santa Monica added only 1,700 housing units in the eight fiscal years from 2011 to 2019, the SMDP previously reported. 

"We’re already, to put it lightly, 12 projects in the hole,” Santa Monica City Council Member Gleam Davis said at an Oct. 11 council meeting.

At that meeting, the council unanimously approved an updated version of the city's housing element, which lays out the city's plans to meet its state-mandated housing goals.

The housing element is updated once every eight years. The version that Santa Monica submitted in 2021 was rejected by the state. The city's new version is likely to be accepted, allowing it to enforce its zoning laws again, but projects submitted in the interim have far fewer hurdles to overcome than they would normally face. 

Frank Gehry-designed project on Ocean Avenue got city council approval this year. It had been moving through the development process since at least 2013, going from 22 stories down to 12 in the process.