The Santa Monica City Council and the Santa Monica Planning Commission are taking the first steps towards updating and adopting new Land Use and Circulation [vehicle and pedestrian traffic] Elements of the city’s General Plan and a new Zoning Ordinance.

“The update is a rare opportunity for the community to coalesce in formulating a shared vision for the next 20 years,” said Suzanne Frick, Santa Monica city planning director.

“The measure of success will be an informative and respectful process where all voices are heard, culminating in a vision that represents the will of the community,” Frick said Tuesday, October 26th.

Dyett & Bhatia, a consulting team of urban and regional planners, was hired for approximately $1.6 million to assist the City Council and Planning Commission.

The update process is estimated to be completed in two years and will involve four phases:

– Background studies in the first phase would take six months and focus on public education, participation, and input to identify what the public wants.

– The second phase would take six months and focus public input towards finding solutions to issues raised during the first phase.

– Drafts and other materials that provide direction and lead up to preliminary conceptual approval of update plans will be created during the third phase, which is expected to take six months.

– The fourth and final phase would take four months and involve completion of an environmental impact report and City Council and Planning Commission approval of various documents necessary to update city plans and ordinances.

Throughout all four phases, the City Council and Planning Commission would hold joint meetings to share information with the public and obtain public input from all stakeholders.

Dyett & Bhatia will host an interactive Web site, community workshops, focus groups, children and youth outreach programs, and presentations with civic and neighborhood organizations.

The consulting team will also publish newsletters, a “Discover Santa Monica” Guidebook, and scientifically accurate surveys.

Surveys include mailing, telephone, and Internet surveys for residents, and “intercept surveys” for people who come into Santa Monica for work or recreation.

“The public involvement program will address the need to develop an outreach program that speaks to and engages participants of diverse backgrounds, educational levels, and interests,” said project consultant Rajiv Bhatia.

Santa Monica Councilmembers Ken Genser and Kevin McKeown expressed concerns that the public input events would not adequately balance competing interests such as those of developers and neighbors, and residents and visitors.

Bhatia assured the City Council and the Planning Commission that the public participation program has been set up to “provide objective feedback from a broad spectrum of the community.”

Background studies in the first phase have been taking place since October.

Dyett & Bhatia would notify the media and community leaders as to when and where the consulting team will seek public input.

Frick said the current Land Use and Circulation Element of the city’s General Plan was adopted 20 years ago and the Zoning Ordinance was updated 16 years ago.