Santa Monica Lookout
|Path Toward New Santa Monica Development Measure Could Begin This Week||
By Jonathan Friedman
December 5, 2016 -- The wide-margin defeat of Measure LV in last month's Santa Monica election could just be the first stage in a path toward putting voters in charge of at least some development decisions in this city.
Two City Council members have placed an item on Tuesday's agenda calling for staff to "explore procedural steps" on establishing "voter approval requirements" for certain types of development projects.
The brief proposal from Councilmembers Kevin McKeown and Gleam Davis also calls for the possibility of certain developments requiring super-majority council approval for passage as an alternative to a residential vote.
While Measure LV, also known as LUVE, would have sent most projects exceeding 32 feet in height to the ballot, McKeown and Davis are looking at developments "exceeding the general plan, the adopted zoning code or some other specified threshold."
They are also thinking beyond just another ballot measure, but also at the possibility of "policy changes, resolutions [and[ ordinances," according to their proposal.
Long considered a leader in the slow-growth movement, McKeown was placed in a strange position this fall campaigning against LUVE, which was called a slow-growth measure by its creators and other backers.
He said the measure went too far and could lead to unintended consequences. McKeown even placed his name on the top of the list of signatures attached to the ballot argument against LV.
But McKeown was never opposed to voters having a say on at least some development projects in Santa Monica.
Shortly before Election Day, he raised the idea for a lighter version of LUVE in the near future (“Leading Opponent of Santa Monica’s Measure LV Floats Compromise,” October 20, 2016).
LUVE’s top backers dismissed McKeown’s idea, with measure co-authors Armen Melkonians and Tricia Crane calling it an "empty gesture."
When McKeown again brought up the idea shortly after Election Day,the duo refused to comment ("Development Combatants in Santa Monica Consider Post-Election Compromise," November 14, 2016).
Davis' decision to join McKeown in placing the proposal on the council agenda might come as a surprise to political observers who do not see her in line with him on development issues.
However, Davis is on record saying she would at least be willing to listen to a proposal in the realm of LUVE.
"If someone can craft a measure that meets my concerns, I certainly would consider it," wrote Davis this fall in response to The Lookout's question asked of all council candidates ("Santa Monica Council Candidates Talk About Measure LV," October 17, 2016).
Other council members have said they were willing to consider LUVE alternatives, including Sue Himmelrich. She was the only council member not on the record as a Measure LV opponent, but she was not a supporter either.
"I do believe that we should have a vote on projects that exceed existing zoning," she told The Lookout last month.
McKeown and Davis need the support of a majority of the seven-member council for their proposal to proceed to the next step. It is almost unheard of for council-placed agenda items not to get this amount of support.
Whether the council as a whole or a majority of the community is interested in trying another, possibly less-aggressive, form of LUVE is another matter.
The final election results last month were not close, with nearly 56 percent of voters rejecting Measure LV to create a double-digit percentage point win for the opposition.
LUVE Backers say the fact that they were greatly outspent in the campaign was the reason for the defeat ("Backers of Defeated Santa Monica Slow-Growth Measure Blame Development Money, Claim Success," November 10, 2016).
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