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Residocracy Still Considering Initiative Giving Residents Bigger Voice in Development Issues

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark

Pacific Park, Santa Monica Pier

Harding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP  law firm
Harding, Larmore
Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

May 11, 2015 -- Despite action by the Santa Monica City Council that would seem to heed its “Too Tall, Too Big, Too Much”  warning, the online-based advocacy group Residocracy is considering  taking the development issue to the public for a vote.

Residocracy founder Armen Melkonians said Thursday that the organization’s advisory board is discussing whether to collect signatures for an initiative/and or a referendum that would give residents more of a voice on development and zoning issues.

Residocracy is waiting, he said, to see how the City Council votes on the City’s controversial zoning ordinance update (ZOU) when it meets on Tuesday.

The heart of the issue is whether the ZOU would allow too much building – a contention that Residocracy has long made.

The group of about 2,000 is a growing voice in development matters in the city. Along with several neighborhood organizations and others, Residocracy pushed hard for the city not to allow taller buildings in certain parts of town, saying Santa Monica is already too congested.

It has repeatedly urged the City to rein in development and has accused staff’s proposed zoning update of allowing buildings that would be too tall and too big for the seaside city.

Melkonians said the City Council seemed to listen last Tuesday, when it voted not to allow taller buildings on Wilshire and Santa Monica boulevards. The Council voted 4 to 3 to remove the Tier 3 category, which allowed the taller buildings, from the city’s Land Use and Circulation Element (LUCE)

 “It was a step in the right direction,” he said. “I’d like to think that they felt the community pressure.”

But, he said, there are still many other issues and concerns in the community about the zoning update, and Residocracy is awaiting the City Council’s final vote before it decides whether to start collecting signatures for public voting on the issue.

After years of study and much debate – some of it heated – the Planning Commission recently handed the ZOU over to the City Council for final approval.  The City Council’s action last Tuesday was its first move in that direction.

Melkonians said the referendum would freeze the ZOU.  The initiative would allow for greater public voice in development matters. The exact language of the initiative hasn’t been determined, Melkonians said, but might require a public vote for large projects with sizeable public impact.

Melkonians said he expects the council to approve the ZOU soon and noted that it would take 30 days for the ordinance to become law.  Residocracy would probably start collecting signatures during that 30-day window.

Valid signatures from 10 percent of the city’s 64,625 registered voters are required. The vote would likely take place during a special election, Melkonians said.

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