Santa Monica Lookout
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Mysterious Group Demands Answers from Santa Monica Council Candidates
By Jason Islas and Jorge Casuso
August 20, 2012 -- Candidates for the Santa Monica City Council received a questionnaire of over 30 questions Wednesday night from an anti-development group that almost nothing is known about.
The questionnaire -- which came from a group calling itself Santa Monica for Responsible Growth -- was delivered via e-mail to council candidates who had qualified for the ballot as of Wednesday afternoon.
“I don’t know who they are,” said Planning Commissioner and council hopeful Ted Winterer. “But I’m curious to know more about them.”
Winterer has referred to himself as a “responsible growth” candidate, but said that the name of the group, as far as he knew, was a coincidence.
Though the group responded to an email from The Lookout requesting an interview that is pending and a local press outlet spoke with a member, no specific information has been provided about the group or any of its members.
Any political group that raises more than a $1,000 has to file a statement of organization with the Secretary of State, according to the City Clerk. There was no Santa Monica for Responsible Growth registered with the Secretary of State as of Thursday afternoon.
Santa Monica political insiders also have no idea who this organization represents or where it comes from, although it is the latest in a handful of anti-growth movements that have cropped up in the fast-developing beachside city.
Susan Burnside, a political consultant hired by the Huntley Hotel to help oppose the $255 million make over of the Huntley’s neighbor, the Miramar, said she hadn’t heard of Santa Monica for Responsible Growth.
Burnside also said she knew nothing about the formation of a Political Action Committee (PAC) related to slow growth.
Several other council candidates also said they knew nothing about the group and declined to comment on the record.
The Internet wasn’t any more helpful. A Google search for the group revealed nothing.
A quick glance at the questionnaire reveals that it would take a serious commitment of time to complete.
It is divided into 5 sections: General Vision, Development, LUCE, Transportation and Infrastructure and City Services.
Under General Vision appears this series of questions: “Does the term ‘destination city’ apply to Santa Monica? What does it mean to you? How does it figure into the quality of life of Santa Monica residents?”
The longest section, Development, contains 11 questions including, “Do you support the Miramar expansion as currently proposed? If no, what would you want to change about it? What kind of new Miramar structure do you think would be best for Santa Monica?”
Under the City Services heading, the questionnaire asks, “What's the optimum population of Santa Monica?”
Then, the questionnaire lists three categories of Santa Monicans, with the expectation that the candidates would list the numbers they think are “optimum.”
The categories are residents, visitors and non-resident workers.
An e-mail to the group went unanswered and no one the Lookout spoke to could identify someone associated with the organization.
Santa Monica Slow Growth is the latest group formed to oppose development in Santa Monica.
The oldest and largest, the Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City, sponsored a failed ballot initiative in 2008 to limit most commercial development to 75,000 square feet a year.
Prop T received about 45 percent of the votes despite being outspent 10 to one and opposed by virtually every Santa Monica Civic leader.
The group has recently opposed the proposed 766,000-square-foot Bergamot Village project at the old Papermate Site, hiring an attorney to respond to the City's massive Environment Impact Report (EIR).
On September 6th, the North of Montana Neighborhood Association (NOMA) will hold a meeting featuring the coalition's Co-chair Diana Gordon, who "been invited to speak about the tsunami of new development projects planned in our city and what residents can do about it," according to an email invitation.
Gordon told the Lookout she has been trying to get in touch with the group.
The coalition already has been joined in the anti-development battle by opponents of the Miramar who formed the Save Santa Monica Coalition, which claims some 1,000 members with a core of residents who live near the hotel.
Burnside & Associates, which listed the Huntley as a client, took credit for organizing the opposition.
"In just weeks, Burnside & Associates created and designed a community outreach plan that knit together a coalition of involved participants of neighbors, environmentalists, businesses and organizations that eventually engaged more than 950 people," read a post on Burnside's website that has since been removed.
Political observers anticipate the group could join forces to elect slow growth candidates in November.
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