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Local 11 Drowns Out Community Voices In 'Plaza' Debate

By Charlyce Bozzello

Unite Here Local 11 has long supported the controversial “Plaza at Santa Monica” development, thanks to a neutrality agreement signed by the developer that guarantees new dues dollars for the union.

Now, with the help of its friends on the City Council, it looks like the union is finally getting its wish.

On Tuesday night, the City Council voted 6-1 to move ahead with negotiations on the mixed-use development ("Santa Monica Council Votes to Continue Negotiations on 'The Plaza' Project Downtown," July 29, 2020).

The vote happened over vociferous protests: Santa Monicans sent dozens of letters replete with arguments as to why the Plaza was a bad deal when initially proposed, and an even worse risk post-coronavirus.

One resident even asked the Council to “stop destroying our community.” Yet another said, “It is time that Council members listen to the concerns and wishes of the people they were elected to serve.”

Their pleas were ultimately ignored. Instead, the Council spoke admiringly of "a project that provides long-term unionized employment," echoing talking points provided by Local 11.

Dozens of nearly-identical form letters were sent by the union's members, many of whom don't even reside in the city.

The letters lamented the lack of affordable housing in Santa Monica, acknowledged that the project wouldn't do much to solve that problem, and then urged the Council to proceed anyway.

Local 11's letters campaign was a clear attempt to drown out the voices of countless concerned residents who urged the Council to terminate negotiations over the development.

This time, the Council's support for the union could cost it. A detailed letter from the Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City (SMCLC) spells out serious legal concerns.

In the Coalition's words, "The City cannot continue negotiations with this developer or make any further arrangements for the disposition of this publicly-owned property without first... offering it to entities interested in buying or leasing the land for open-space purposes or affordable housing development."

The public outcry against The Plaza suggests residents are tired of being steamrolled by union interests at the hands of their own elected officials.

Come November, we'll find out if Santa Monicans have truly run out of patience with their current City Council.

Charlyce Bozzello is the communications director at the Center for Union Facts

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