Last year, developer WS Communities filed plans for more than a dozen large apartment buildings in Santa Monica, using the then little-known "Builder's Remedy" to exceed height and density limits imposed by local zoning rules. Seven months later, in an effort to at least maintain some degree over oversight over the projects, the city has entered into a settlement agreement with the developer.

The agreement, approved by the Santa Monica City Council on May 9, calls for WS Communities to suspend 13 of its Builder's Remedy applications. While the  agreement contemplates that WS would refile its projects with height and floor area ratios which comply with the zoning code, allowing for administrative review by Planning staff.

The projects encompassed by the agreement include:

Summary of projects included in settlement agreementCity of Santa Monica

Project applications slated for sites at 1038 10th Street, 1238-1242 10th Street, and 1007 Lincoln Boulevard are intended to be permanently withdrawn, as part of the agreement. Likewise, the other 10 Builder's Remedy applications would be permanently withdrawn, following administrative approval.

As part of the agreement, the City of Santa Monica also has the option to adopt a new ordinance granting development incentives including:

  1. a 15% inclusionary requirement for the development of off-site affordable housing units, giving the owners more flexibility to pool off-site affordable housing units into one 100% affordable housing project to satisfy off-site inclusionary requirements for multiple market-rate projects;
  2. the grant of state density bonus waivers and concessions for the market rate projects as if the off-site units were provided on-site; and
  3. an increase in the Downtown Community Plan maximum parking requirement from 0.5 to 1.0 spaces per unit.

1433 Euclid StreetCity of Santa Monica

One project not subject to the agreement is the WS development slated for a property at 1433 Euclid Street. That proposal would see the construction of an 18-story building featuring 200 apartments - greatly outstripping the maximum three-story height currently allowed for the property.

Both the city and WS Communities have also agreed to dismiss pending litigation against one another relating to Santa Monica's leasing ordinance and alleged violation of tenant protection legislation.

The Builder's Remedy, as prescribed by state law, limits the ability of a city or other jurisdiction to deny applications for eligible housing developments while its housing element is out of compliance. While Builder's Remedy has been employed in numerous jurisdictions across California that have historically chafed at calls to add new density, it is currently untested in court, and numerous cities have indicated their intent to pursue legal action to block its use.

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