Santa Monica Lookout
|Santa Monica Slow Growth Group Launches Petition Drive||
By Niki Cervantes
September 17, 2017 -- An online slow-growth group on Wednesday posted a proposed initiative to require a public vote before Santa Monica development agreements can be approved.
Signatures gathered on an e-petition cannot be used to qualify a measure for the ballot, but are a way for the group to gauge support. Residocracy would still have to gather qualified signatures from 10 percent of the City’s registered voters to take the measure to a vote.
“Too many large, tall, and dense developments have already been approved and built. Too many low-rise buildings have already been demolished,” said the e-petition posted on the online site Residocracy.org.
The Land Use Voter Empowerment, or LUVE, initiative would require a public vote for the development agreements that now go before the City Council for approval. Development agreements between the City and developers are required when projects exceed zoning and land use standards.
The proposed initiative would also require public votes for developments that are more than two to three stories in most of the city and four stories downtown (known as Tier I developments). In addition LUVE would require public votes for major amendments to planning policies and for major changes to any City “specific” plan, the zoning ordinance or land use maps and zoning district maps.
It is not clear when the measure is meant to go to the public for a vote. Armen Melkonians, who leads the group of some 2,000 members, has talked about holding a special election. He could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Valid signatures from 10 percent of the city’s 64,625 registered voters are required.
The online-based group has been a harsh critic of the City’s building policies, which it says are too generous to developers and have resulted in a building boom that will strip the city of its beach town ambience and push out long-time residents.
It has been particularly outspoken on both Santa Monica’s zoning ordinance and its land-use regulations, contending they are full of loopholes that would allow the kind of growth and development that would overwhelm the city.
Last year, Residocracy gathered more than 13,500 signatures in an effort to halt a 765,000 square-foot mixed-used development project in Santa Monica’s industrial corridor. The City Council reversed its vote after the necessary number of signatures had been verified.
Mayor Kevin McKeown, who was endorsed by Santa Monica’s slow growth groups, had a mixed reaction to the proposed initiative.
"Certain truly community-changing projects, like hotel/condo towers along our oceanfront, should go to the voters, and I proposed that last year,” McKeown said
But he added that sending “virtually all approvals to the ballot would only draw still more developer money into our elections, and further distort the local democratic process.”
The group’s web site points to several big developments in the City pipeline, including a controversial proposal to build a 12-story mixed-use complex on City-owned land at 4th and 5th Street and Arizona. Residocracy has petitioned for a park to be built there instead.
Also on Residocracy’s radar is the proposed redevelopment of the Fairmont Miramar Hotel on Wilshire Boulevard and Ocean Avenue to include more than 20 floors. “This project does not belong in my beach town of Santa Monica and it is better suited for Miami Beach,” the petition reads.
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