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Santa Monica’s LUVE Initiative Not Unique Concept in California
Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark
Roque & Mark Real Estate
2802 Santa Monica Boulevard
Santa Monica, CA 90404
(310)828-7525 -

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

Convention and Visitors Bureau Santa Monica


By Jonathan Friedman
Associate Editor

June 27, 2016 -- If voters approve Santa Monica’s LUVE initiative in November, it would radically change the local development process, but it would not be a unique moment in California history.

Numerous communities have passed measures that, as LUVE proposes, make approval by voters (not just a city council or other legislative bodies) a requirement for green lighting certain types of developments and implementing land-use policy changes.

There are also LUVE-like measures on other California ballots this November.

Although these types of proposals aimed at curbing excessive development, whether real or perceived, are common, they weren’t in 1990 when Napa County voters approved Measure J, a proposal drafted by the Napa County Farm Bureau.

Measure J prevented county officials from changing the designation of agricultural, watershed and open space lands in the general plan, including for approval of development projects, without the voters’ blessing.

The legal standing of Measure J was uncertain, and litigation followed its passage.

The California Supreme Court ruled in 1995 that Measure J was legally sound, making it a blueprint for many other proposals that went before voters in the two decades since.

Measure J will expire in 2020. To prevent that from being an issue, voters passed a similar measure in 2008 that extended the expiration to 2058.

Closer to home in 2000, Malibu residents passed Measure P, which said all commercial projects exceeding 25,000 square feet required voter approval.

This measure was proposed by a citizens group concerned excessive development was headed to the community that just nine years earlier had become a city as a method to preserve its rural character.

That measure never became law because in the same election, residents also passed the city council-backed Measure N that said development agreements exceeding 30 acres needed voter approval and that it would cancel Measure P if it received more votes, which it did.

Three years later, the first and only possible development agreement meeting Measure N’s threshold went before Malibu voters.

They rejected an agreement between the city and billionaire multi-property owner Jerry Perenchio that would have deed restricted many of his lands to open space and allowed development on other sites.

Malibu residents were at it again in 2014 with the passage of Measure R, backed by part-time resident and famed director Rob Reiner.

It required commercial developments over 20,000 square feet to go before voters. Measure R also has a restriction on chain stores (something not included in LUVE).

The measure had its first test one year later with the proposal for a shopping center possibly featuring a Whole Foods in Malibu’s Civic Center area from developer and Los Angeles Police Commissioner Steve Soboroff.

Voters rejected the proposal, but the celebration was short-lived. Just one month later, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge sided with Soboroff and another developer in ruling that Measure R was invalid.

Local activists and the City have appealed the decision.

Other places with voter-approved laws requiring residential input on development decisions include Encinitas, Del Mar, Escondido, Newport Beach, Redondo Beach and Alameda County.

A series of related measures written by the group Save Open Space and Agricultural Resources (SOAR) were approved in Ventura County and several cities in the county from 1995 to 2002.

They required voter approval for development on farmland and open space.

The SOAR laws expire in 2020, and residents of some communities will vote in November to extend them to 2050. A competing proposal will also go before voters that is less restrictive and expires in 2036.

Although measures giving voters a say on development and planning issues often win, it is not always the case.

Buena Park residents rejected a proposal last year requiring voter approval for all residential, commercial and industrial projects on properties designated as open space.

In 1999, voters in the Bay Area cities of San Ramon, Pleasanton and Livermore rejected related measures from a group called Citizens Alliance for Public Planning that was composed of people concerned about Silicon Valley growth.

Those measures received national attention as some of the most restrictive in the United States. The Pleasanton and San Ramon measures called for voter approval of all residential projects exceeding 10 units. The Livermore proposal had a 20-unit threshold.

Among the communities in addition to Santa Monica that will be deciding this November on measures requiring voter approval for land-use decisions is Costa Mesa.

Called the Costa Mesa First initiative, that measure calls for voters to weigh in on developments that require zoning or general plan changes, exceed 10,000 square feet of retail or office space, increase traffic by an average of 200 road trips per day or feature at least 40 housings units.

Correction: This article originally stated that LUVE did not have an expiration. The text of LUVE says it "shall remain in force until 20 years from its Effective Date."

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