Santa Monica Lookout
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New Activist Group Forms in Santa Monica, Some People Aren't Happy

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark

Pacific Park, Santa Monica Pier

Harding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP  law firm
Harding, Larmore
Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

By Jonathan Friedman
Associate Editor

March 31, 2015 -- There is a new player in the Santa Monica political battle that features many well-known names. Santa Monica Forward announced its presence Sunday through a press release.

The group says on its website that it is working for "a diverse, progressive, sustainable and equitable Santa Monica."

"We, in Santa Monica Forward, came together to help build on all the good work of the past to shape an inclusive and forward-looking community in the future," said former Mayor Judy Abdo in the press release.

Abdo is one of many former or current City leaders listed on the group’s website as supporters. Others include current Councilmembers Pam O’Connor, Gleam Davis and Terry O’Day as well as former Mayor and current Assemblymember Richard Bloom.

Some local slow-growth activists are hostile to its arrival and calling it "pro-development."

"Great, now we have a clear Enemies of Santa Monica list," wrote a local newspaper columnist on the Facebook page for Residocracy, an activist group formed last year to oppose the controversial Hines project and has been a leading force in slow-growth activism.

Another person wrote, "Perhaps it's a ploy to stop Residocracy. Residocracy became way too powerful with the Hines project and with [Residocracy head] Armen [Melkonians’] next step looming, this is what they 'had' to do."

Melkonians announced last week that Residocracy would collect signatures to place a measure on the ballot in opposition to the proposed new zoning ordinance (See "Residocracy to Launch Ballot Measures to Control Santa Monica Development," March 26, 2015).

Numerous other people posted on Residocracy’s Facebook page in opposition to the newly formed group, including 2012 City Council candidate John Cyrus Smith.

"Don't be deceived," he wrote. "This is a 'shadow' group of pro-development, high density proponents who are attempting to put a 'community' face on their efforts. It is designed to counter Residocracy and work against it. Period."

Santa Monica Forward’s press release does not mention Residocracy, nor does it advocate for "high-density" development, but it quotes founder Juan Matute’s opposition to what he says is the current state of local political dialogue.

"We came together because we believe that a progressive city thrives only with a fact-based, inclusive and civil public discourse that respects the many viewpoints of residents, workers and members of the broader community," Matute said.

He added, "I don’t feel as though my views are being represented in much of the public dialogue. That's disconcerting when I hear people say they are speaking for all residents."

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