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The Builder’s Remedy in Santa Monica

by Denny Zane and Michael Soloff, SMRR Co-Chairs

You may have heard the rumor about the “Builder’s Remedy” and wondered what it is. You may have heard that the “Builder’s Remedy” may enable over 4000 housing units (80% market rate) to be built in Santa Monica without application of our local building standards, thus at far greater heights and densities than local standards would permit.

Unfortunately, there is truth to this rumor. Fundamentally, it is a truth created by the State of California. They imagine by doing so they are enabling “solutions” to our affordable housing crisis.

But, now, it is our local crisis. We are threatened with this “solution” even though our local building standards and housing programs have been shaped to enable our city to more than meet our State allocations of market-rate housing and to have the most productive affordable housing program of any city in California, while still creating an authentic urban vibrancy and protecting our beach town intimacy.

The State imposed this remedy even though at that time the approved and pending projects that comply with local building standards already would produce 139% of the entire 2021-2029 State allocation of market rate housing. The new “Builder’s Remedy” projects by themselves would produce another 117% of that 8 year market rate housing allocation. By contrast, approved, pending, and “Builder’s Remedy” projects combined would produce less than 30% of the 2012-2028 affordable housing allocation.

The question is when will the State show a real commitment to creating affordable housing? The State drastically cut affordable housing funding in 2012 and has never restored it despite repeatedly acknowledging the desperate need for such housing. Yet it was the purported failure to demonstrate adequate land for affordable housing that the State claimed principally triggered the “Builder’s Remedy”. Santa Monica has shown its commitment to actually create affordable housing by allocating public land, and by passing both the original and new Measures GS to fund affordable housing. We must demand that the State end its hypocrisy and provide matching resources to Santa Monica for affordable housing, rather than simply using lip service about affordable housing as a way of further upzoning the City for market rate housing.