Draft Land Use and Circulation Element (LUCE) is released

BY VINCE ECHAVARIA

Released for review after years of community involvement, the draft Land Use and Circulation Element (LUCE) has received early praise from Santa Monica officials as a plan to help guide the city’s future.

Prior to the document’s draft environmental impact report (EIR) being issued in January, the draft LUCE has been released to the public to allow the community and city officials to study its strategies, goals and policies. City Council members received an overview of the document and its proposals from Planning and Community Development staff at the November 24th meeting.

The LUCE is designed to incorporate the community’s vision for Santa Monica’s future over the next 20 years and is intended to reflect the community’s input regarding issues such as land use and transportation in the city. City staff said the document is designed to provide a long-term framework for decision making far into the future. The LUCE was last updated 26 years ago.

“What you’ll see in this plan is that we’re picking up the challenge that has been given to us by the community,” Eileen Fogarty, Planning and Community Development director, told the council.

The draft planning document has undergone a process of several years of community involvement and feedback, including a number of workshops. The process involved representatives of the community, landmarks and planning commissions, City Council, and city attorney and city manager’s office, Fogarty said.

The City Council supported the LUCE Strategy Framework earlier this year, allowing staff to move forward with the draft plan. Fogarty said the document is strongly focused on conservation issues and it integrates elements such as land use and transportation and jobs and housing.

Among the other primary topics are neighborhood conservation, congestion management, community benefits and preservation of historic resources.

In regards to transportation, the LUCE recognizes the opportunities provided by the planned Expo Line light rail and considers other forms of transportation such as bicycle riding, Planning and Community Development staff said.

“We’re stewards of the future; we have a great and exciting opportunity here,” said Fogarty, promoting the plan.

After reviewing the draft LUCE, several community members expressed support for how the plan addresses important issues.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more comprehensive, inclusive process than the LUCE process. It’s in keeping with the key goals and values of Santa Monica and we should applaud that process,” said activist Jerry Rubin, who added that the plan should also include issues regarding Santa Monica Airport.

Landmarks Commission member Nina Fresco called the document “awesome,” saying it appropriately refers to historic preservation.

Susan Cloke, chair of the Recreation and Parks Commission, also offered praise, saying that the draft LUCE captures the character and spirit of Santa Monica.

“It expresses our principles and values and gives us the criteria to make judgements as we go through the next 20 years,” Cloke said.

City Councilwoman Gleam Davis said she supports how the process requires that there be ongoing community involvement on projects.

“What this says is that we have overriding principles and the community will stay involved in how the community continues to develop in the future,” she said.

Mayor Pro Tem Pam O’Connor called the document a “milestone” for the city but noted that officials need to be careful when going through the “fine-tuning” process.

The plan will provide direction for the city in the future by protecting the existing housing stock, providing a balance of jobs and housing and making improvements for the arts, Councilman Kevin McKeown said.

The draft EIR is expected to be released in January, after which a public comment period will be held. The city will hold public hearings before the Planning Commission and City Council prior to the adoption of the final EIR and LUCE approval.

Information on the draft LUCE can be found at www.shapethefuture2025.net/.

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