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By Jorge Casuso

October 14, 2020 -- A leading Santa Monica slow-growth group on Wednesday endorsed Oscar de la Torre for City Council hours after he issued a blistering attack on the proposed Plaza project Downtown.

The Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City's (SMCLC) endorsement of the School Board member rounds out its support of a slow-growth slate challenging the incumbents in the race for four full-term seats on the Council.

"As you know, SMCLC had previously endorsed only three candidates for our Santa Monica City Council," the Coalition wrote in an email to supporters Wednesday evening.

City Employees' Council Endorsements

"With the release of this statement and press release from Oscar de la Torre, we are pleased to announce that we are now endorsing Oscar for City Council along with the entire 'Santa Monica Vote for Change' slate of council candidates."

De la Torre -- who is running on the slate with Arts Commissioner Phil Brock, Planning Commissioner Mario Fonda-Bonardi and Christine Parra -- publicly stated his opposition to the Plaza in the Lookout's candidate questionnaire posted Tuesday.

In his statement Wednesday, de la Torre elaborated on his position, calling the proposed 357,000-square-foot mixed-use hotel development on City owned land Downtown a "land grab, giveaway and plunder of the public purse."

"Public land is a rare commodity in our City and once it is sold off to private interests there is no turning back," de la Torre wrote in his statement. "I believe that public land should benefit the true owners of this land, the residents.

"Yet the City Council has voted to give away our public land and it is the developer who stands to profit while Santa Monica residents lose out," de la Torre wrote. "This project uses scarce public land for a huge private project."

The Council voted in July to continue negotiating a 99-year lease of the 2.7-acre site at 4th and 5th and Arizona, prompting the Coalition to file a lawsuit to halt the project ("Santa Monica Council Votes to Continue Negotiations on 'The Plaza' Project Downtown," July 29, 2020).

"I stand wholly and unequivocally in support of the Surplus Land Act suit being brought by Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City (SMCLC) and for the principle that public land should remain public, be under public control and be used for public purposes," de la Torre said.

"Thus, I oppose the Plaza project not only on the basis of its massiveness and inappropriateness for the space and for the city of SM, but more importantly, for the land grab, giveaway and plunder of the public purse that it represents."

Filed late last month, the lawsuit charges that the City failed to abide by the State's Surplus Land Act, which requires that the land be offered for affordable housing or use as open space ("Slow-Growth Group Sues City to Halt Plaza Negotiations," September 25, 2020).

"The City Council should have ended negotiations with the developer but instead it moved forward with the developer and their project essentially ignoring the Surplus Land Act," de la Torre said.

De la Torre also stated his opposition to Development Agreements (DA) that "in effect, permit and enable circumvention of city codes and regulations regarding land use."

"With regard to other projects for which the city has behind closed doors negotiated DAs for overdevelopment and hyper-density, I stand firmly opposed," de la Torre said.


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