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Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

Convention and Visitors Bureau Santa Monica

By Jonathan Friedman
Associate Editor

October 18, 2016 -- Incumbent Tony Vazquez and challenger Armen Melkonians won the Santa Monica City Council endorsement from slow-growth activist group Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City (SMCLC) on Monday.

Political observers expected SMCLC's endorsement of Melkonians, founder of the slow-growth organization Residocracy and the co-author of the LUVE initiative, which would make voter approval a requirement for the finalization of a significant number of development projects and planning documents.

"Armen would be a refreshing addition to the council, injecting new ideas," SMCLC wrote. “LUVE's passage and Armen's election would send a message, loud and clear, that residents have had enough."

Perhaps more interesting is who did not receive SMCLC's backing -- incumbent Ted Winterer, whose political career began as an activist in the slow-growth movement.

This marks Winterer's first council campaign without SMCLC's support. The organization backed him in his failed 2008 and 2010 campaigns as well as his successful bid in 2012.

SMCLC's decision not to support Winterer this year could be due to his opposition to the slow-growth Measure LV, which the organization endorsed last month ("Santa Monica Coalition Endorses Slow Growth Initiative", September 20, 2016).

However, Vazquez is also opposed to Measure LV, a proposal also known as the LUVE initiative, which would require voter approval for most projects taller than 32 feet and changes to planning and land use policies.

SMCLC addressed Vazquez's opposition in its endorsement announcement.

"While he is opposed to Measure LV as written, Tony believes that residents should vote on whether significant development projects get built," SMCLC wrote.

Winterer told The Lookout in his candidate questionnaire answer that he also could support a LUVE alternative ("Santa Monica Council Candidates Talk About Measure LV," October 17, 2016).

"We might contemplate one which requires a vote on projects which exceed our General Plan depending on the outcome of the Downtown Community Plan process," Winterer wrote.

SMCLC was supporting Winterer as late as November 2014, calling him a member of the council's slow-growth majority.

The group praised Vazquez for supporting the investigation into the Elizabeth Riel affair and the Hueston report that followed ("Santa Monica City Approves $710,000 Settlement in Hiring Case," July 17, 2015 and "Santa Monica Council Member Criticized by Colleagues," April 28, 2016).

It also noted his opposition to the Hines development that was initially approved by the majority of the council in January 2014. The panel reversed that decision a few months later ("Council Repeals Approval of Controversial Development," May 14, 2014).

Winterer also meets those two qualifications.

In 2014, the Coalition spent $58,000 to oppose incumbent Pam O'Connor and to support three candidates in the City Council race ("Santa Monica Election Fundraising Revs Up for Final Stretch," October 20, 2014).

As of June 30, the Coalition had yet to raise any substantial money, according to campaign finance disclosure statements filed by the group.

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