401 Montana Rainbow Garden
TO: The Santa Monica City Council
Regarding: The Rainbow Garden at 401 Montana Avenue, Santa Monica 90403
Appeal Submittal Date: January 30, 2019
We respectfully request the below changes be made to the Conditional Use Permit for the Rainbow Garden Learning Center as conditionally approved by the Planning Commission on January 16, 2019. We believe the requested changes cited below will better align the goals of the Rainbow Garden with the surrounding residential neighborhood.
Please receive this letter as both an appeal of certain conditions while at the same time, a letter of support for the Rainbow Garden. If executed in the spirit of their proposal, the Rainbow Garden will be a charming addition to Santa Monica. Thank You.
8’ FENCE AND TREES AT FRONT OF PROPERTY:
We request the C.U.P. clearly state the 8’ side fence remain transparent and the front facade not be obscured by trees.
1. This is aligned with the LUCE.
2. Additionally, as noted at the hearing, this will also help security and impede homeless sleeping on site.
Our request is based on the following information:
The rendering for 401 Montana shows an 8’ metal fence that is see-through. There are vines at the bottom but a passerby can clearly see through the fence to the grounds. This is shown as an appealing aspect of the property. Yet at the hearing Mr. Ma said the fence would be opaque. Commissioner Fresco requested this be lowered to 48”. Mr. Ma declined her request, stating the fence could not be lower than 8’ “to avoid paparazzi”. Additionally, it was inferred the large fruit trees facing Montana would be grown to also obscure passersby from viewing into the property. This was noted by the Commissioners as not being permissible.
We request the Rainbow Garden be closed on weekends, except for Special Events.
1. There are no private preschools or elementary schools in Santa Monica which are open on the weekend for regular classes.
2. Following the Commission’s Special Events C.U.P. guidelines, the Rainbow Garden would be allowed 1x weekend class of up to 20 people and 1x large event per month with maximum headcount and requirements subject to the Fire and Safety codes for Special Events.
3. The Commissioners made clear the additional “Special Events“ offered the Rainbow Garden were intended for classes or activities outside the scope of a school.
(Please note there is a question of whether Rainbow Gardens is actually 'a school' as defined in the Santa Monica zoning code, but that is a reserved legal point.)
4. The neighborhood surrounding the Rainbow Garden is highly trafficked with beach goers, shoppers, visitors, and residents on the weekend. Parking is difficult and the alley is highly trafficked at all hours by residents. A school being open 7 days a week would be unduly impactful on the neighborhood.
Please note: If weekend classes remain permitted, we request they only can operate 9:00am-1:00pm.
We request the Rainbow Garden be closed on all legal holidays.
1. This is aligned with other private preschools and elementary schools in Santa Monica which are closed on holidays.
We request the revised limits to Special Event hours:
1. Sunday - Thursday: All Special Events must end by 9:00pm.
2. Friday and Saturday: Special Events must end by 10:00pm.
3. We request the C.U.P. clearly specify that the end time of a Special Event INCLUDES all event load-outs, clean-up, outdoor use, alley use, or any other activity on-site. The end time means Rainbow Garden is fully “dark” by this time.
As a point of reference, 19 out of the 23 restaurants along Montana Avenue’s commercial district close at 10:00pm or earlier on weekend nights. Many close earlier during the week.
We are not a late neighborhood. The C.U.P. hours are out of sync with this quiet neighborhood of nearby R1 and R2 residences.
We request the revised limits to parking:
1. Any special event over 50 people would require an off-site parking plan, ie: visitors would be bused in from somewhere outside the neighborhood and not be allowed to park on neighboring streets.
Additionally, we support the loading/unloading of children on the corner of Montana Avenue and 4th Street, as requested by the Applicant. We also recommend and support the designation of permitted school parking spots on the corner of Montana and 4th Streets during school hours and for special events. (See parking signs for Early Year Preschool as a possible model).
Finally, concerns about bus use in the alley were outlined by the public and discussed by the Commission at the hearing on January 16, 2019. Clarity is requested on whether school or commercial buses will be allowed to travel down the alley, and whether an off-site/off-street school bus holding area is required by the C.U.P.
DEFINITION OF SPECIAL EVENT:
We request the following definition be made in the C.U.P:
1. We request that a Special Event be defined as “a fund-raiser specifically to support the Rainbow Garden or an educational class consistent with the primary use of the space, such as an adult or neighborhood gardening class.”
Our request is based on the following information:
We understand that as currently written, the C.U.P. allows the Rainbow Garden to be used/rented as a private event space. We request that any use outside the above “Special Event” definition require a Temporary Use Permit from the City and neighbors within 750 feet would be notified. Such a use would not be allowed more than 2x year nor would it be in addition to the monthly Special Events allowed by the C.U.P.
Thank you for taking the time to review our requests. We believe they are simple to enact and fair to both parties. By clarifying these points before a final Conditional Use Permit is issued we feel the City can help create an environment of good will and collaboration between the neighborhood and the Rainbow Garden.
We appreciate your time and look forward to discussing our appeal with you.
The 401 Montana Appeal Group, email@example.com