Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Victoria Avenue Urgency Ordinance Extended

Last night, the City Council extended our urgency ordinance regarding large retailers on Victoria for 10 months, until the end of January 2008. The ordinance requires retail stores of 50,000 square feet or more to obtain a use permit from the Planning Commission. Because this is an urgency ordinance, it required 6 votes – which we got, but not without some very public horsetrading between Councilmember Monahan and myself.

You may recall that, at the end of January, we lifted the moratorium on commercial development along Victoria even though our Corridor Plan was not complete. Anticipating the possibility of Wal-Mart or some other large retail store proposing a project on the Kmart site, we created the use permit requirement in an urgency ordinance.

Under state law, however, this urgency ordinance could only be in effect for 45 days. That’s why we had to vote on it again last night. An urgency ordinance requires a 4/5ths vote – which means 6 out of 7 votes. By law, we can have an urgency ordinance in place for up to two years – and the staff recommended an extension of 22 months and 15 days (two years minus 45 days).

As the discussion unfolded it became clear that both Neal Andrews and Jim Monahan were opposed to such a lengthy extension. Neal seemed opposed on principle, but Jim seemed willing to extend the ordinance for some period of time – just not 22 months. First he proposed another 45 days, then he agreed to 8 months. The planning staff, however, said an 8-month extension might require us to put Victoria ahead of some other planning efforts such as Saticoy & Wells and Midtown.

Councilmember Ed Summers proposed a 10-month extension, to the end of January 2008. Jim was not receptive to that, but he did once again express concern that part of the Victoria effort ought to be to renew discussions with Caltrans about whether and when to build a southbound connector between the 126 and 101 freeways. (That traffic currently must go down Victoria).

Finally I promised Jim that if he supported a 10-month extension on the use permit ordinance, I would take up the 126-101 extension question with Caltrans and with Assemblymember Pedro Nava, chair of Assembly Transportation Committee, this summer. (By then the draft EIR on Victoria will be out and we will have an estimate of how much traffic on Victoria is due to the freeways.) He agreed and the urgency ordinance passed.

I didn’t mind doing this – I think we should revisit the 126-101 connector question too – but it was a reminder that you should never underestimate Mr. Monahan’s political skill!

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