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Leading Opponent of Santa Monica’s Measure LV Floats Compromise
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Convention and Visitors Bureau Santa Monica

By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

October 20, 2016 -- Just two weeks before Election Day, a leading opponent of Santa Monica’s slow-growth initiative is floating a future compromise that would seek public votes on new large developments, but not as many as are triggered by Measure LV.

The proposal by City Council Member Kevin McKeown seeks a public vote on projects exceeding zoning rules, although not before November 8.

And McKeown's proposal would require first resolving the proposed development plan for downtown that helped inspire the creation of Measure LV, which would require voter approval for most major projects and changes to planning and land use policies.

After the council adopts the Downtown Community Plan next year, “we will have reached substantial agreement on what level of building is appropriate in different parts of our city, always protecting our neighborhoods,” McKeown said Tuesday.

“With that master plan complete, let’s stick to it,” he said. “Anything that goes beyond our zoning limits, including Development Agreements, should be approved only if the public gets the final say.”

Backers of Measure LV dismissed McKeown’s proposal as a last-ditch attempt to “thwart the will of the voters.

“McKeown’s empty gesture is too little and comes too late,” Tricia Crane and Armen Melkonians, co-authors of LV, said in a joint statement. “McKeown is asking us once again to trust him and a phony public process that has failed the residents for so many years.”

McKeown’s proposal does not specify how or when he would move it forward.

If enacted, Measure LV requires a public vote of new developments higher than 32 feet, with some exceptions for affordable housing, senior citizen complexes and other projects.

Almost half of the 41 projects in the City’s backedlogged development pipeline are in downtown, City data shows, and nearly all of them exceed 32 feet in height.

Several helped spark Measure LV, including the renovation of the aged Fairmont Miramar Hotel, which as proposed would be 320 feet in height, as well as the City’s own 12-story 420,000-square-foot mixed use “plaza” at 4th and 5th streets and Arizona Avenue.

A 22-story proposed hotel, mixed use project designed by Frank Gehry would also be nearby.

Zoning elsewhere in Santa Monica was updated last year to mesh with the land-use overhaul the City completed in 2010.

McKeown regards LV as too restrictive, as does the rest of the council, although Sue Himmelrich has not officially taken a stance.

On Wednesday, Himmelrich said she would support McKeown’s compromise “with perhaps a few tweaks.”

One change, she suggested, would be “approval by a supermajority vote of the council before the voters have to vote.”

Himmelrich tried but failed in June to win council support of a motion meant to counter the Land Use Voter Empowerment (LUVE) initiative, as it was known before being placed on the November ballot ("Santa Monica Council Rejects Rival Measure to Counter LUVE," June 30, 2016).

Himmelrich’s motion proposed giving voters the power of approval over “large-scale development.”

Back then, “no one would support me,” she said.

Two of the four incumbents facing re-election -- Gleam Davis and Tony Vazquez -- have said they might consider future attempts to provide public votes on new development ("Santa Monica Council Candidates Talk About Measure LV," October 17, 2016).

Nearly all of Santa Monica’s established political figures and organizations opoose Measure LV, with groups funded by developers raising nearly $1 million as of September 29 to defeat the measure ("Opposition to Santa Monica LUVE Measure Raises Nearly $1 Million," September 30, 2016).

The core of the measure’s backers are neighborhood associations, with six of the seven endorsing it as a way of stopping what they view as overdevelopment. Proponents had raised about $49,000.


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