Downtown Specific Plan

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Final Downtown Specific Plan

On February 21, 2017, Staff presented the City Council with a final update on the Downtown Specific Plan Project and next steps for California Coastal Commission certification. The Final Downtown Specific Plan and all supporting documents have been submitted to the Coastal Commission at this time. It is anticipated that it will take approximately one year for the Commission to certify the Plan.

Because the Downtown Specific Plan will not become effective until the Coastal Commission certifies the Plan, the City Council extended Interim Zoning Ordinance (IZO) 17-0007-U which requires a Use Permit for any business or professional office, bank and savings & loan, catering service, or communication facility proposed to be located on the ground floor streetfront, and for any retail sales use proposed to have more than 1,600 square feet of buildable floor area, essentially maintaining the status quo in the Downtown. The Ordinance only affects commercial development and does not affect any residential development.

For any questions related to this project, please contact Nhung Madrid, Project Manager at (310) 802-5540.


As the heart of our community, Downtown is a key component of what makes Manhattan Beach such a desirable place to live, visit, and conduct business. The Downtown is a vibrant and charming destination for shopping, dining, and services. The City is working with Michael Baker International, the community, local businesses and other stakeholders to develop a Downtown Specific Plan to maintain and enhance this quaint character, as well as encourage business success. The Plan will guide future development, retail mix, public improvements, and the management of parking in the area.

The development of the Downtown Specific Plan will be done with the full engagement of the community and other stakeholders, so check back often for updates and opportunities to participate!

Starting with Vision

In January 2015, the City of Manhattan Beach partnered with the Urban Land Institute (ULI) to conduct a week-long visioning exercise to determine key issues and opportunities that can be explored through a Downtown Specific Plan process that kicked-off in July 2015. From over 125 stakeholder interviews and several design charrettes with the general public, the ULI Advisory Panel determined the following priorities for the Downtown area: 

  • Preservation of Manhattan Beach's unique small town beach character
  • Improved and increased parking
  • Enhanced streetscapes with facilities for pedestrians and cyclists
  • Strategic redevelopment of key sites to achieve community goals
  • Strategies to protect small business viability
  • Creation of shared office space and small-scale retail
  • Beautification through new street art, facade improvements, landscaping and sidewalk cafes
  • Engaging Downtown businesses and property owners to lead and fund improvements

To view the complete results from the ULI Visioning Week, see links below:

Information Memo: ULI Downtown Visioning Week Recap - January 20, 2015
ULI PowerPoint Presentation
(PDF) - January 16, 2015
Video Playback of ULI Presentation - January 16, 2015
Information Memo: ULI Final Report (PDF) - June 26, 2015

Beginning the Specific Plan Process
To kick-off the Downtown Specific Plan, the City asked residents, property owners, merchants and visitors to share their thoughts on key questions through a survey. The survey was administered in-person at several Downtown locations, including Metlox Plaza, Manhattan Beach Boulevard, the Pier, the city’s booth at the farmer’s market, and during the weekly concert in Polliwog Park. The survey was also made available online through Open City Hall during August. Questions asked on the survey included:

  • Which of the priorities identified through the ULI Visioning process mentioned above is most important to you?
  • Is there something important missing from the priorities list?
  • What would encourage you to spend more time in the Downtown?
  • What are other communities doing that you'd like to see in Downtown Manhattan Beach?
  • How should the City manage local versus national retail opportunities?
  • Would you prefer to see more office spaces or retail on the ground floor?

Community Workshop #1 - Seeking Input on the Design Alternatives (PDF)
The City hosted the first of three community workshops on the Manhattan Beach Downtown Specific Plan to gather feedback and review the alternative design concepts for the Downtown. Workshop #1 was held at the Police/Fire Community Room, 420 15th Street, on October 8th and 9th, 2015. Workshop #1 featured one "full" workshop and two "mini" workshops. This multiple workshop approach was utilized to maximize participation amongst community members. The mini workshops were primarily envisioned as additional opportunities for members of the business community to participate in the development of the project's alternatives, but were also open to the general public.

During Workshop #1, participants were invited to share their preferences on topics such as:

  • Land uses and the downtown tenant mix
  • Mobility and parking
  • Design preferences for architecture, street furniture, lighting, landscaping, and public spaces
  • Priority projects

Below are the Stations and Presentation from Workshop #1:

Attendees at this meeting had a first-hand opportunity to provide invaluable feedback essential to shaping the future of Downtown Manhattan Beach!

Community Workshop #2 (PDF)
The City hosted the second of three community workshops on the Manhattan Beach Downtown Specific Plan to gather feedback on how the community would like to preserve the Downtown's small town character and quality of life.

The second workshop was held in the Police/Fire Community Room, 400/420 15th Street, Monday, November 16, 2015 at 6:00 PM. During the workshop, participants were invited to share their preferences on topics such as:

  • Building design
  • Streetscaping and public spaces
  • Mobility and parking
  • Business development and relations

Below are the Stations and Presentation from Workshop #2:

Community Workshops #3 & #4

    With the release of the Draft Downtown Specific Plan in mid-March 2016, Workshops #3 and #4 focused on the content in the Draft Downtown Specific Plan.

    Workshop #3, which was held on March 16th provided a high level overview of the key elements of the Draft Downtown Specific Plan. A recording of the workshop is available for viewing. The Draft Downtown Specific Plan and Workshop presentation can be found below.

    Draft Downtown Specific Plan (PDF)
    Workshop #3 Presentation (PDF)

    Workshop #4 was held on March 24th and provided an opportunity for community members to provide informed feedback after having had the opportunity to review the Draft Downtown Specific Plan. This workshop included breakout sessions where the public was able to ask questions and discuss main elements of the Plan with staff and project team.  The workshop presentation and station posters can be found below.

    Workshop #4 Presentation (PDF)

    Workshop Posters:

    Vision (PDF)
    Circulation Plan (PDF)
    Development Standards & Design Guidelines (PDF)
    Land Use Plan (PDF)
    Public Realm Improvements (PDF)
    Encouraging Economic Development (PDF)
    Improve Access to Parking (PDF)

    In addition to the two community workshops, Staff provided an informational overview of the Draft Downtown Specific Plan to the Planning Commission on March 23, 2016 and to the City Council on March 28, 2016

    City Council / Planning Commission Study Sessions

    On April 12, 2016, a Joint City Council/Planning Commission study session was held at the Police/Fire Community Room to receive initial feedback from the Planning Commission and initial specific direction from the City Council on the key concepts presented in the Draft Downtown Specific Plan. A follow-up City Council meeting was held on April 18, 2016 to further refine City Council's recommendations and direction on the Draft Downtown Specific Plan. The staff report and presentation from both meetings can be found below:

    April 12, 2016 Joint City Council/Planning Commission Meeting Agenda Packet (PDF)
    April 12, 2016 PowerPoint Presentation (PDF)

    April 18, 2016 City Council Meeting Agenda Packet (PDF)
    April 18, 2016 PowerPoint Presentation (PDF)

    Staff held two study sessions on April 27, 2016 and May 11, 2016 with the Planning Commission to provide an update on the outcome of the April 18 City Council meeting, and to discuss the remaining contents of the Draft Downtown Specific Plan. These additional meetings were very productive as they provided the Commission an opportunity to ask clarifying questions, request additional information on various key concepts, as well as request staff to explore potential options for the various land use, traffic, parking and circulation, and private and public realm concepts from the Draft Plan. The presentation from both Planning Commission meetings can be found below:

    April 27, 2016 PowerPoint Presentation (PDF)
    May 11, 2016 PowerPoint Presentation (PDF)

    In response to the Commission's request, on July 27, 2016, staff held its third study session with the Commission and provided a thorough report and presentation, which included extensive research on items requested by the Commission, as well as provided the Commission new options for consideration. The Commission was able to make well-informed recommendations for the majority of the key concepts and requested that only a few items return for additional discussion. On August 10, 2016, the Commission continued the Downtown Specific Plan discussion and provided recommendations on the remainder of the key concepts. The presentation from both meetings can be be found below:

    July 27, 2016 PowerPoint Presentation (PDF)
    August 10, 2016 PowerPoint Presentation (PDF)

    Environmental Document - Mitigated Negative Declaration (MND)

    The public review draft of the Downtown Specific Plan Draft Mitigated Negative Declaration (MND) (PDF) evaluates the Draft Downtown Specific Plan's key concepts, as discussed through the community outreach process, and further refined by the City Council.  The 30-day public review period commenced on August 25, 2016 and ended Friday, September 23, 2016. 

    Notice of Intent to Adopt a Mitigated Negative Declaration (PDF)

    Draft Mitigated Negative Declaration (PDF)

    Draft Downtown Specific Plan

    Planning Commission Public Hearing 

    The Planning Commission Public Hearing to adopt the Downtown Specific Plan was held on Wednesday, October 26, 2016 at 6:30 PM at City Hall Council Chambers.  The staff report is available on the Planning Commission Homepage.

    Final Draft Downtown Specific Plan
    Public Hearing Notice and Flyer (PDF)

    City Council Public Hearing

    On December 6, 2016, the City Council held a public hearing and adopted the Final Draft Downtown Specific Plan with revisions to reflect input from the community. The agenda and related items are located on the City calendar. The revisions that were requested at this hearing were then incorporated into the Final Downtown Specific Plan and Redline Strikeout version, which was then presented to City Council on February 21, 2017.


    Additional Resources

    View photos of Downtown Manhattan Beach

    City Council, Commission and other public meetings and links to agendas, staff reports, minutes, videos, and presentations. 

    If you would like more information about this project, please contact Nhung Madrid, Project Manager at (310) 802-5540.

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