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Santa Monica City Council to Consider Ballot Measure Requiring 'Super-Majority' Vote for Biggest Projects
By Niki Cervantes
December 14, 2017 -- Despite dread of touching off more development warring, the Santa Monica City Council Tuesday voted to consider a ballot measure requiring a “super-majority” council vote for development exceeding City limits on size and height.
The vote asks City staff to examine such a measure for the November ballot next year.
The author, Councilmember Kevin McKeown, said he hoped a super-majority requirement approved by voters would help create “a period of development peace” for a city scarred over the issue of new development.
“There is a fear in the community of over-development in the future,” he said to his colleagues.
McKeown’s motion -- similar to one he made a year ago -- comes at a time when the city’s slow-growth camp is already talking about collecting signatures to put measures on the November ballot halting big development projects on the council’s horizon.
They include a mixed-use hotel on City-owned land downtown at 4th/5th and Arizona and the proposed redevelopment of the Fairmont Miramar Hotel.
McKeown said his motion is only meant to take “a deeper dive” into a super-majority rule for the council, and that he hoped it would start a “community conversation.”
Councilmember Sue Himmelrich supported the idea, noting she’d floated the same basic idea before the 2016 election as a slow-growth alternative to Measure LV, which would have required a public vote of most new developments higher than 32 feet.
Little came of the idea then, and LV -- which pitted a grass roots slow-growth group against the City's establishment and developers -- was defeated after an expensive opposition campaign funded largely by development interests.
A super-majority mandate “is important for public trust,” said Himmelrich, who like McKeown, is up for re-election next November.
“It is reasonable to look at,” she said.
Everyone else on the dais seemed to shudder, though.
Councilmember Tony Vazquez said such a measure would “bring anything but peace.”
Davis agreed. “This is not buying development peace,” she said. “It will just make more of an incredibly contentious issue.”
The motion comes one year after McKeown, along with Mayor Pro Tem Gleam Davis, floated a similar proposal ("Santa Monica City Council Reconsiders Public Vote on Development," December 8, 2016).
An option to require a supermajority vote was considered, but rejected, as part of the Downtown Community Plan ("Santa Monica Downtown Plan Seeks to Strike a Compromise, Officials Say, But Some Remain Skeptical," April 13, 2017).
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