Mark McDermott

Moratorium declared on medical offices on Sepulveda in Manhattan Beach

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by Mark McDermott

The City Council on Monday enacted an emergency ordinance declaring a 45-day moratorium on new medical office uses on Sepulveda Boulevard.

The moratorium precludes planning approval for six types of use, including medical or dental offices and laboratories; emergency and urgent care facilities and health clinics; assisted care facilities; residential or adult day care facilities; and convalescent facilities.

The discussion began at the previous council meeting, on August 1, when the Council believed it had adopted the emergency ordinance citywide with a 3-2 vote. Nobody realized until the next day that it hadn’t gone into effect because emergency ordinances require four votes. Mayor David Lesser and Councilmember Steve Napolitano were the two dissenting votes.

Napolitano had brought the issue forward but disagreed when a council majority, urged by councilmembers Richard Montgomery and Amy Howarth, excluding residential care and assisted living facilities from the moratorium.

The issue came to the fore both because residents’ concerns about the quality of life impacts of a recently approved Exer urgent care facility on the 3200 block of Sepulveda and a pending proposal for an assisted living facility on Goat Hill, the 200, 300, and 400 blocks that span from Pizza Hut to Big Wok.

Councilperson Nancy Hersman on Monday tried to broker what she termed a “Hersman-Napolitano compromise” that would limit the moratorium to Sepulveda but also include residential care and assisted living facilities. She included a direction that staff look into redefining what constitutes urgent care in city code —  reasoning it was a seperate issue — so that each project would require a use permit and would therefore also require council approval.

The bigger issue, Hersman said, was Sepulveda Boulevard.

“We have to look at what it is that we want on Sepulveda,” she said, by way of explaining why she suggested not passing a citywide moratorium just yet. “Then it is much clearer to the community what we are doing: we are concerned about too many medical facilities in all their different forms…and put a moratorium on that until we have an opportunity to really look at Sepulveda and the guidelines and where we want to go with that.”

Napolitano argued for a moratorium that would pause office development citywide. He said it was the same issue that the city had struggled with with its downtown specific plan —  the proliferation of offices, which often replace sales tax generating retail and diminish the array of services available to residents.

“I think the last discussion of this left a little distaste in my mouth for the fact it came down to the claims well you are either for or against senior housing in Manhattan Beach, which isn’t the case at all,” Napolitano said.

“I actually wanted this [moratorium] to be broader,” he added.  “I didn’t want it to be just medical offices —  I wanted it to be all offices, in general, and all office uses….I think it’s an issue that goes across our commercial areas, not just Sepulveda. I think Rosecrans is important to consider, too, especially in light of some sales and some changes that are already being talked about up there.”

Howarth agreed with Napolitano’s reasoning but backed Hersman’s proposal as a start. “It’s just like you start trying rebuild your house and you think it’s going to be easy, then you  start picking things apart and it takes longer and longer and longer. So I would like to focus on Sepulveda but I’d be willing to look at all offices because he is right —  if we say, ‘Oh, no more medical offices,’  but now all of sudden we have tons of mortgage offices, it’s the same thing. ”

Howarth also suggested mixed use development might be part of the equation.

“You know, there is a housing shortage in California….I have children in their 20s —  we all have children — and I’d like them to be able to live here somewhere,” she said.  “Let’s get creative and have mixed uses where we have retail on the first floor.”

Montgomery urged excluding senior housing facilities from the moratorium but agreed that the larger issue was offices in general.

“I’m no fan of adding more offices, be it medical or not,  to Sepulveda,” he said. “They had their chance to get in there, and we are seeing the effect. It’s almost the Wilshire corridor, buildings going back and forth. ”

Hersman’s motion passed 4-1, with Montgomery dissenting. The Council has a larger discussion regarding Sepulveda Boulevard slated for Sept. 19.


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