Rezoning of Six Lots to Block Parking Use

Times Staff Writer

In a battle between Santa Monica homeowners and commercial interests, the City Council has agreed to rezone six lots immediately north of the Wilshire Boulevard business district for strictly residential use.

The lots are occupied by residences, but the current R-1A zoning of the so-called "A lots" would have allowed the development of street-level parking on the properties.

The council voted 5 to 1 Tuesday to establish restrictive R-1 (single-family residential) zoning for the six lots on Franklin Street and Centinela Avenue.

The homeowners who sought the change did not achieve a complete victory, however. The council failed to reach a majority vote that would have stopped commercial property owner Jean Hunnicutt Uke from proceeding with her plans to redevelop one of the lots for street-level parking. Her plan already has received some approvals from the city, but no demolition or building permits have been issued, according to city officials.

The council split 3-3 on a motion by Councilman Dennis Zane to deny further city approvals or permits for any redevelopment of the lots pending the new zoning.

Stating that it would be unfair to change the rules in midstream, Councilmen David G. Epstein and William H. Jennings and Mayor Christine E. Reed voted against Zane's proposal to withhold the necessary permits.

Zane's motion, which had the votes of Councilmen James P. Conn and Herbert Katz, would have prohibited Uke from continuing with her plans to demolish a duplex at 1165-67 Franklin St. (a permit has been granted by the city's Rent Control Board) and build a parking lot.

At the 3 1/2-hour hearing before the council Tuesday, Uke said she needs the added parking on Franklin Street so she can build one-story retail stores on an adjoining commercially zoned property she owns on Wilshire Boulevard.

The Wilshire property is the site of Uncle John's Family Restaurant, a modest, 24-hour pancake house which Uke said cannot by itself pay high enough rent to support such a prime location. The retail stores would be in addition to the restaurant.

Appeals Could Delay It

Uke said Wednesday she is "disappointed we were spot-zoned" as R-1 residential. Although the council did not achieve the votes to stop her project, she said, she remains unsure of its fate.

"If they keep appealing," Uke said Wednesday, "they could hold us up longer. It is a matter of us getting through before the new ordinance becomes effective."

It is likely to be about four months before the new ordinance is drafted, city officials said at the council meeting Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Planning Commissioner Derek Shearer has filed an appeal against the Uke parking lot project, which will be heard by the Planning Commission on Monday. Shearer has protested that the housing element of the city's General Plan would require replacement of the duplex that is to be demolished.

Uke said she has offered to donate the duplex for relocation in the city, but no one has accepted her offer.

Surprise to Planners

In an interview on Wednesday, Shearer said that members of the Planning Commission had no knowledge of Uke's plans for a retail development next to Uncle John's until she announced it at Tuesday's council meeting.

Such a proposal should be looked at as a whole by the Planning Commission rather than being considered piecemeal, he said. "There are issues still open" that must be resolved before the project can be decided, he said.

At the meeting Tuesday, commercial property owners protested the down-zoning of the six lots, claiming that it is illegal "spot zoning."

Jennings cast the dissenting vote in the rezoning of the lots to single-family residential, saying that any plan should apply to all the city's "A lots," not just these six.

Violation of Land-Use

Businessmen said that rezoning of the parcels to R-1 is a subversion of the recently approved land-use plan, which was arrived at after lengthy public hearings that ended with a compromise between commercial and residential interests.

R. Dale Beland, a Pasadena urban planning consultant hired by the Commercial and Industrial Properties Assn. of Santa Monica, told the council that rezoning the six lots in effect "clips the wings" of the land-use plan approved unanimously by the council in October.

To rezone these properties while "the ink is still wet" on the land-use plan is to risk the credibility of the city's entire planning process, Beland said.

Homeowners, citing examples of high-rise office development taking place immediately to the east in neighboring West Los Angeles, said that to allow more parking in the neighborhood would only encourage more commercial development in their area, increasing congestion.

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