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Santa Monica Council Rejects Rival Measure to Counter LUVE
Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark
Roque & Mark Real Estate
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Harding, Larmore
Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

Convention and Visitors Bureau Santa Monica


By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

June 30, 2016 -- A last-ditch effort to put a City-backed measure on the November ballot to rival the slow-growth LUVE initiative died quickly after failing to garner a second vote at Tuesday's Santa Monica City Council meeting.

Even Mayor Tony Vazquez, who co-sponsored the item with Council member Sue Himmelrich, failed to support her motion, saying he placed the item on the agenda in order to have a discussion.

“For us to put up an alternative, it comes up as a little hypocritical,” Vazquez said, adding that he shared Himmelrich’s concerns about large developments but wouldn’t favor any ballot measure “to set something in stone and say that’s it.”

LUVE, or the Land Use Voter Empowerment initiative, would give voters final say on most developments taller than 32 feet and any project involving a development agreement. There are some exemptions for senior citizen units and for “100 percent affordable housing projects of 50 units or less.”

Changes to City planning policies such as zoning laws, district maps and neighborhood plans also would require voter approval ("Santa Monica LUVE Initiative Qualifies for November Ballot," June 1, 2016).

The discussion item placed on the agenda called for an amendment to the City Charter allowing voters to supercede the council on some new developments. But the item was vague, saying only that it should apply to “large-scale” projects with broad public impact. The motion asked City staff to return with more specifics.

Hemmelrich, whose 2014 election makes her the Council’s newest member, said she pushed for an alternative measure because she believed many residents share her concern about LUVE’s height limit.

She also said she favored requiring a public vote on bigger projects because it would force developers to propose the best, most publicly palatable developments early on and end over-sized buildings approved just “because they got four votes” –- or a Council majority.

“As long as speculators think they can go to the sky, it will make speculation rampant,” she told the Council.

But around midnight, when her colleagues dealt with the motion, discussion was fairly brief. Council Member Terry O’Day said an alternate measure would potentially be too confusing for voters.

While the Council placed an alternative measure to counter an aviation industry backed initiative on the 2014 ballot that would have required voter approval for the City to make changes to its airport, this case was different, O'Day said.

“We don’t have the same kind of groundswell of support we had” with Measure LC, he said, referring to the Council-created measure.

Time was a factor, too. Assistant City Manager Elaine Polachek said the Council must finish all its election-related work by July 26, leaving little time to research and craft options for an alternative to LUVE.

The Council already is awaiting a City analysis of LUVE and its potential impacts, due back in the next two weeks.

As is the case with much of the city’s political establishment, the Council is largely opposed to LUVE. The measure was written by the leaders of Residocracy, a slow-growth grassroots group formed in 2014 during Santa Monica’s ongoing development wars.

Critics believe LUVE is too restrictive and will stiffle the City’s efforts to create more affordable housing. LUVE supporters include Santa Monica’s neighborhood groups and slow-growth activists, who accuse the Council of allowing too much building and congestion that will worsen without major intervention.

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