Letter from SMRR Co-Chairs Mike Soloff and Denny Zane
Recently the Santa Monica City Council gave direction to city staff regarding preparation of the city’s Housing Element for 2021 to 2029. Required of every city by state law, the Housing Element is, among other things, a plan for how each city will ensure adequate sites exist to allow development of state set targets for both market rate and affordable housing.
Despite the fact that Santa Monica is one of the few California cities that has consistently met state targets for both market rate and affordable housing development, the new state targets for Santa Monica are far more aggressive than ever before. This cycle sets the city’s targets for the next eight years at over 2700 market-rate housing units and over 6100 affordable housing units. This is more than four times the targets in the prior cycle.
The new market-rate targets will be easy to meet, even within our current zoning. Market-rate developers are always eager to build in Santa Monica. The affordable housing targets will be much more of a challenge.
SMRR’s local political rivals long have sought to use these state requirements to pressure the city to allow far taller and more dense market- rate development – with just a small share of units set aside in each building for low and moderate income residents. Indeed, certain leaders among our rivals are now calling for massive up-zoning of our community to enable market-rate developers to build 30,000 new units over the next 8 years, 80% of which will be market-rate units. SMRR has always urged the City Council to resist such calls for far taller, denser market-rate development. The number of affordable units provided will be too small and the adverse effect on the character of our community potentially profound. We believe we should endeavor to meet the state challenge for affordable housing without taking that course.
Fortunately, the City Council heard both our concerns about over-development and our determination to greatly increase affordable housing by prioritizing 100% affordable projects on city-owned land and by expanding local rent subsidies to many more severely rent- burdened Santa Monicans. But this is no time for complacency – development is so profitable in Santa Monica we can be sure developer interests will be working hard to win over the City Council – or to elect a City Council they like.
Our next opportunity to ensure the Santa Monica City Council will continue to be responsive to us will be the election of November 2022. We will call on you when we need your help. We hope you will be ready.