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LUVE Initiative Placed on Santa Monica Ballot
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Harding, Larmore
Kutcher & Kozal, LLP


Convention and Visitors Bureau Santa Monica

 

 

By Jonathan Friedman
Associate Editor

July 13, 2016 -- The first step in what likely will be an intense Santa Monica election campaign began rather subdued Tuesday when the City Council voted to place the slow-growth LUVE initiative on the November ballot with limited discussion.

Choices were limited for the council because the grassroot group behind the initiative, Residocracy, collected the required number of signatures so that LUVE either had to be adopted as City law without any adjustments or presented to the voters for a decision.

Since no council member supports LUVE, the first option was never going to happen. Fully aware of this, Residocracy did not have any major player from its organization address the council at the meeting during public comment.

“There is not a lot of reason to have lengthy discussion,” said Councilmember Gleam Davis before making the official motion to place LUVE on the ballot.

Mayor Tony Vazquez did weigh in.

He said he could support something like LUVE, but he could not get behind its feature that 32 feet is the maximum height allowed for most development projects to be approved without needing to go before voters.

“I think it just goes against what most of us up here feel is progress,” Vazquez said.

He added, “I understand the sentiment from some of the folks who worked on this and some of the neighborhood groups that may be impacted by some of the development throughout the city [and] their frustration with some of the height."

Vazquez is considered by many political observers to be part of the slow-growth wing of the council. But Residocracy has failed to convince this wing, which comprises the council majority, that its initiative is the way to go.

Another member of the slow-growth wing is Sue Himmelrich, who said on Tuesday that she objected to the City staff report that was highly critical of the measure (“LUVE Could ‘Undermine Community’s Vision for Santa Monica’s Future,’ Government Staff Report Says,” July 8, 2016).

“I think there are statements in here that are incomplete and inaccurate,” she said.

The report, which did not include a recommendation on how the council should vote, said LUVE would lead to various potential negative scenarios, including fewer affordable housing units, more traffic and delays in rebuilding homes after an earthquake.

It also said the initiative could face legal challenges, citing a similar measure recently passed in Malibu that was overturned by a California Superior Court judge. That decision has been appealed ("Santa Monica's LUVE Initiative Not Unique Concept in California," June 27, 2016).

In addition to developments taller than 32 feet, LUVE would require voter approval for all projects with development agreements and any changes to City land-use policies, including amendments to the General Plan and the creation of community plans.

“The voters will approve good plans,” Himmelrich said. “I don’t think [LUVE] is the ideal metric for it. I do think having a voter approval in place at some level, and maybe it’s at the General Plan level, makes projects better.”

Residocracy says LUVE is needed because government officials, including elected leaders, have ignored residents and allowed over-development in Santa Monica.

A statement on the LUVE information section of Residocracy's website says City officials “cater to development interests.”

Significant campaigning is expected from both sides of the issue. Two campaign committees have formed to oppose the measure (“Campaigns Against Santa Monica’s LUVE Initiative Form,” May 25, 2016).

The next few months could be similar to what happened during the RIFT (Residents’ Initiative to Fight Traffic) campaign in 2008.

Although a much different proposal, RIFT also sought to restrict development in Santa Monica. It was defeated by an opposition campaign that was significantly funded by development interests.


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