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Convention and Visitors Bureau Santa Monica

By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

November 7, 2016 -- Proponents of Measure LV staged a last-ditch rally to drum up support for the slow growth measure, opponents continued filling mailboxes with flyers and a last-minute write-in City Council candidate rallied voters on the internet.

The final days of Election 2016 in Santa Monica turned frenzied, as rival campaigns battling over the fate of LV made their final pleas to voters expected to turn out in large numbers Tuesday.

The measure -- which would give voters final approval of most developments taller than 32 feet -- was at the center of the final week's political activity, although the ballot includes several other local measures, as well as races for City Council, Rent Control and College boards ("Santa Monica Voters Tackle Big Ballot," November 7, 2016).

The LV campaign, which has raised about $60,000, scrambled to reach voters inundated with literature from opponents, an alliance of Santa Monica’s political and civic leaders with a $1.15 million war chest largely funded by developers.

The anti-LV campaign “flooded people with so many mailers and flyers, people are suspicious now. There’s a backlash,” said Armen Melkonians, the founder of Residocracy and co-author of LV.

Volunteers were combing the city, knocking on doors and staking out curbs to carry placards, said Melkonians, who is running for City Council.

The LV campaign also produced an 11th hour ad insert in a local newspaper that runs through election day. The ad printed on yellow paper states in bold black letters, “Notice of Demolition and Construction.”

A final mailer opposing LV also was placed in local media and sent to voters. The eye-catching ad displayed a large wall with the bold heading -- BUILDING WALLS: Measure LV's Real Agenda?"

The ad from Housing and Opportunity for a Modern Economy (HOME), one of two campaigns opposing LV, quotes Melkonians saying, "We don't need additional housing."

"We sent about ten pieces of mail to voters and a few subsets like Absentee Voters (and) Renters," said Sharon Gilpin, who ran the HOME campaign. "We used all the tools -- we canvassed, we polled, we used old school and social media to make our case.

"We closed with our Building Walls piece because that does sum up what many are advocating for modern Santa Monica," said Gilpin, the strategist who helped defeat Measure D and win YES on LC, two related airport measures, in 2014.

As of October 28, HOME had $50,000 on hand of the $421,765 it had raised ("Fundraising for Major Opposition to Santa Monica’s LUVE Measure Tops $1.1 Million," October 28, 2016).

Santa Monica Forward, the biggest spender in the anti-LV drive, was mostly silent about its plans for the last days of the election.

“You can say that Santa Monica Forward No on LV is doing an aggressive get out the vote effort,” said Judy Abdo, who is one of the group’s leaders and a former Santa Monica mayor.

As of October 22, Forward had $400,000 of the $734,104 it has raised left to spend.

Measure LV’s support is based among the city’s neighborhood associations, activists and others in the slow-growth movement that oppose many of the proposed multi-floor, “mixed-use” apartment complexes replacing older, one- and two-story buildings.

Nearly all of the City’s elected officials and civic and business leaders oppose LV, saying the measure is to restrictive and would impose a barrier for plans to address Santa Monica’s housing shortage.

The contentious final days of the 2016 campaign also included last-minute developments in the race for four open council seats.

Phil Brock, who entered the race last month as a write-in candidate for City Council, sent an email blast seeking support ("Brock Launches Write-in Campaign for Santa Monica City Council," October 19, 2016).

Brock had opted not to run, then changed his mind, he said, at the urging of supporters. Development is one of the biggest complaints he was hearing, he said, and that prompted him to join LV’s ranks.

It is unclear what impact Brock's entrance into the race will have.

Meanwhile, the Transparency Project, a local watchdog group with slow-growth ties, announced Wednesday that it had filed two complaints with the City against Council Member Terry O’Day, one of four incumbents in Tuesday’s council race.

The complaints -- which Transparency officials said had “just come to light” -- allege that O’Day violated the Oaks Initiative by receiving a campaign contribution from Marc Luzatto, the principal of Village Trailer Park, after voting to approve a development agreement in Luzatto’s favor.

In response, O’Day said his campaign followed the provisions of the City's voter-approved Oaks Initiative and “had an oversight in our OAKS compliance review this filing period, and when it came to our attention, we immediately returned the funds.

“We appreciate our community watchdogs for helping the entire Council to comply with a very complicated law,” he added.

The Oaks Initiative prohibits the City’s public officials from, among other things, receiving campaign contributions or a job from contractors and developers after approving a public benefit for them.

One other late campaign flare-up involved a council member who said his name was used without his consent in a letter delivered on doorsteps opponents of LV.

Councilmember Kevin McKeown, a slow-growth advocate who strongly opposes the measure, said a letter sent by Santa Monica Forward entitled “A Message from Kevin McKeown about the dangers of LV” included portions of emails he’d sent to constituents -- but that letter itself was not from him.

“I stand by those quotes, and my reasons for urging a 'no' vote,” McKeown said in an email to the Lookout. "However, the printed piece is not a ‘message from me.’ I did not create it, I did not authorize it, and I did not pay for it."

Abdo did not respond to a request for comment.

Jorge Casuso contributed to this report.

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