By Jason Islas
September 12, 2012 -- The Santa Monica Coalition for a Liveable City -- the most powerful force opposing development in the beachside city -- sounded its battle-cry for election season 2012 at the North of Montana Association (NOMA) board meeting Monday.
Speaking to a packed auditorium at the Main Branch Library that included three City Council members and two challengers, coalition Co-chair Diana Gordon delivered an impassioned warning about the rise of development and how residents can resist the “over-development” of their city.
“Developers are coming into the city and preventing residents from having control” over development, Gordon said Tuesday, singling out several major development projects currently underway in the City.
She pointed to the proposed Miramar “Revitalization” project that would add as many as 120 condominiums in three new buildings replacing the two main buildings.
“This is not a 'revitalization' project. It's a new project,” she said, contesting City staff's terminology.
She also took issue with the Bergamot traffic center proposed by Hines at the old Papermate site in the Pico Neighborhood, which is currently on hold.
“The Papermate project is emblematic of what's wrong with planning in this City,” she said, referring to the proposed 767,000 square-foot mixed-use development.
In 2008, SMCLC sponsored ballot Proposition T -- also known as the “Residents' Initiative to Fight Traffic” or RIFT -- which would have limited most commercial developments in the City to 75,000 square feet.
The measure, which was opposed by nearly every civic leader and special interest group, failed, garnering 44 percent of the vote.
Gordon referred to NMS Properties, Inc. (NMS) as a “juggernaut” poised to develop approximately 4,000 375 to 425 square-foot residential units at various sites around Santa Monica.
The developer, she said, has bought the Denny's site on Lincoln Boulevard and Broadway as well as the Performance Bikes location on Broadway Avenue and Fifth Street.
During her presentation Tuesday, Gordon also claimed that the City Council and developers had too cozy of a relationship.
There is “nothing more important than knowing who is behind which candidate,” she said.
Though she didn't mention any names, she claimed that one council member had had her campaign debt “retired” by developers after being elected, twice.
She added that that council member was not up for reelection this cycle.
Tuesday's audience included two council members not up for reelection -- Kevin McKeown and Pam O'Connor -- and three candidates -- Council member Gleam Davis and Planning Commissioners Ted Winter and Richard McKinnon.
Both McKinnon and Winterer have received the group's endorsement for City Council. ("Anti-Development Group Endorses Two Challengers for Santa Monica Council Race, Snubs Bloom for Assembly," September 12, 2012)
During audience questions taken after the presentation, the council members were asked to respond to some of Gordon's statements.
McKeown, who had taken a seat at the front of auditorium, was applauded when he said, “I think my position on these matters is very clear. I am proud of my voting record.”
“So are we!” one audience member shouted back.
Davis -- who sat toward the back of the auditorium with O'Connor -- extended an invitation to everyone in the crowd to attend council meetings where the projects will be discussed, adding, “a lot of the projects haven't been approved.”
She received a less enthusiastic response.
Gordon retorted that the community should be involved much sooner in the planning process, implying that by the time the Development Agreements go before council for approval, the deals have already been made.
O'Connor was jeered when she spoke about how the coming Expo line would help mitigate traffic congestion in the City.