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Proponents and Opponents Offer Widely Differing Views of Santa Monica Slow-Growth Initiative
Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark
Roque & Mark Real Estate
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Harding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP  law firm
Harding, Larmore
Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

Convention and Visitors Bureau Santa Monica


By Jonathan Friedman
Associate Editor

July 28, 2016 -- Two very different visions for what Santa Monica would look like following the passage of the slow-growth LUVE initiative were laid out in arguments submitted to the City Clerk’s Office this week that will appear on the ballot.

The proponents wrote that the Land Use Voter Empowerment (LUVE) initiative would “protect Santa Monica from overdevelopment and increased traffic congestion." Also, it “permits sensible growth, protects existing neighborhoods [and] prevents resident displacement.”

Traffic would actually increase, according to the opposition’s argument.

Opponents wrote about what they see as LUVE’s threat to neighborhoods’ ability to create community plans, outside special interests bringing money into elections that would be more frequent, unfair loopholes and added difficulty to complete needed projects such as post-earthquake rebuilds and senior housing.

LUVE would make voter approval a requirement to build most projects over 32 feet, with exemptions for housing projects that are 100 percent affordable and have 50 or fewer units, 100 percent senior citizen housing and single-unit dwellings.

Voter approval also would be needed 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 measure is a creation of the slow-growth group Residocracy and qualified for the November ballot after more than 10,000 resident signatures were collected in a petition drive.

LUVE "gives voters back our voice to ensure that Santa Monica is not transformed into an extension of West Los Angeles,” proponents wrote.

The argument notes that the controversial mixed-use Hines project was overturned two years ago after residents forced the City Council to either reverse its approval or put the development before voters ("Council Repeals Approval of Controversial Development," May 14, 2014).

“Somebody didn't get the message,” proponents wrote. “City Council continues to approve massive developments, ignoring the will of residents and destroying Santa Monica's character and livability. Many large projects await council approval.”

Residocracy head Armen Melkonians, who co-wrote the measure and is a potential City Council candidate, topped the list of signatories to the proponents’ argument.

Also signing were Wilmont Neighborhood Coalition board member Kate Bransfield, Friends of Sunset Park President Zina Josephs, Mid-City Neighbors Treasurer Ellen Hannan and Richard Hilton, who heads the West L.A. Council for Seniors.

Bransfield, Josephs and Hannan are Residocracy board members.

The opposition’s argument includes many criticisms that were in a report released by City staff earlier this month that was highly critical of LUVE (“LUVE Could ‘Undermine Community’s Vision for Santa Monica’s Future,’ Government Staff Report Says,” July 8, 2016).

“Why do most responsible community leaders and organizations say [LUVE] is too extreme?” the argument asks in the opening line. “Because a one-size-fits-all height limit of two stories citywide goes too far, and [LUVE] is full of unintended consequences.”

City Councilmember Kevin McKeown’s signature is on the top of the list. His opposition is significant because he has for many years been Santa Monica’s most visible leader of the slow-growth movement.

The rest of the council also opposes LUVE, but some council members have said they might support a less extreme version of it. This idea is included in the proponents’ argument.

“Voter involvement on very large projects may be appropriate, but requiring an election for almost anything over 32 feet will only cause voter fatigue and even more campaign flyers in your mailbox,” opponents wrote.

Also signing the argument were former mayor Nat Trives, former Santa Monica-Malibu Classroom Teachers Association president Harry Keiley, Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights (SMRR) Steering Committee Member Linda Sullivan and League of Women Voters of Santa Monica President Barbara Inatsugu.

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