By Jorge Casuso
October 10 – Saying it takes “common sense”
to conclude that more commercial development will generate more
traffic, Council member Bobby Shriver announced Thursday that
he is throwing his support behind Prop T.
Shriver also said opponents are using “cheap scare tactics” when
they charge that the measure -- which would cap most commercial development
at 75,000 square feet a year for the next 15 years -- would hurt future revenues
for police, fire and schools
Shriver called his decision to vote for the measure a “tough” one
that came after much research and deliberation.
“I know it has taken me a very long time to take a position,”
Shriver wrote in an email to The Lookout. “I am
a social services person, not an urban planner.
“I spent many hours over the last several months in long
conversations with 40 or so residents, city staff, and developers'
representatives,” Shriver wrote. “I factored all their
strong arguments for and against T into my decision.”
Shriver -- who is running for reelection after winning the second largest number
of votes in recent Santa Monica history four years ago -- joins Kevin McKeown
as the only council members who have endorsed the measure formerly known as
the Residents’ Initiative to Fight Traffic (RIFT).
Shriver’s endorsement should provide a boost for supporters
of Prop T, who have raised less than $86,898 and are some $15,000
in the red, compared to the $428,880 raised by opponents of the
Developers Bankroll Prop T Opposition,” October 9, 2008)
“New development -- especially commercial development --
will generate more traffic,” Shriver wrote in a statement
released Thursday. “This is common sense.”
Opponents of the measure have said there is no empirical evidence
to suggest that reducing commercial development would alleviate
Santa Monica's traffic congestion.
“This is pretty obvious, but once a building is built, you cannot get
rid of it,” Shriver wrote. “The most important results of T will
be what we will never see: huge buildings and more gridlocked traffic.”
City Hall, Shriver said, is ignoring the pleas of frustrated
residents who are fed up with sitting in rush-hour traffic.
“My canvassing tells me that traffic is killing Santa Monica residents’
way of life and they want to slow development down; they do not want more tall,
dense buildings. City Hall is ignoring their pleas to preserve what’s
left of the low-scale, open feeling that keeps Santa Monica connected to the
ocean, mountains and sky.”
Prop T, Shriver said, provides a flexible tool to curb development,
while sending a strong message to City officials.
“There is nothing wrong with putting a brake on for a little while,”
Shriver wrote. “Once the City ‘gets it’ and aligns its development
policies with what residents keep asking for, we can vote to modify or even
Shriver said he doesn’t buy the arguments made by opponents of Prop T
that the measure will put a dent in future revenues that help bankroll the City’s
record $524.7 million annual budget.
“City revenues are not at any near-term risk,” Shriver
wrote. “Because of the long-term nature of development approvals,
we will know well in advance if T is keeping too many developers
from proposing new projects.
“If it looks as if serious revenue loss will occur, we
can change the law in plenty of time,” Shiver wrote.
Past predictions that the City’s slow-growth policies would halt development
have not materialized, and Santa Monica retains a AAA bond rating thanks to
a diverse source of revenues, Shriver said.
“Over the past thirty years, various development policy proposals have
caused opponents to predict that new development would stop. Those predictions
have never come true.”
Shriver also does not buy the fears of Prop T opponents that
the measure would put public safety and education “at risk,”
calling the potentail impacts the measure would have on future
general fund revenues, at best, “educated guesses,”
and, at worst, "cheap scare tactics."
“If the City loses revenue for whatever reason, funding for public safety
and helping our schools are two of the last items in the city
budget that would be cut,” Shriver wrote. “The notions
that passing measure T will harm school children and cause crime
to increase are cheap scare tactics.”
Shriver also countered opponents’ arguments that the measure
would put nonprofits and medical centers “at risk.”
“Do we sincerely believe that the people of Santa Monica,
their city council, and planning department will not make sure
our great nonprofits and hospitals can continue their service
to the community? If that requires an amendment to Measure T,
the council can put it on the ballot, and the public would no
doubt pass it.”
Shriver noted that the measure also provides that “a vote
of the people can approve extra square footage” if some
“very large development is proposed that most residents
agree would be good for the city.”