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Slow Growth Forces Meet to Plan Strategy

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By Daniel Larios
Staff Writer

April 29, 2014 -- The Internet-based slow growth Santa Monica group Residocracy will be gathering supporters together for a meeting May 1 at 7 p.m. at the Lincoln Middle School auditorium to discuss, among other topics, a possible ballot measure to limit development throughout the city.

The session called "Residocracy: Planning the Future," will include a discussion on the status of the referendum to stop the Bergamot Transit Village project, preparations for the upcoming City Council election, brainstorming of ideas to expand membership and a discussion of creating a ballot measure to limit development in Santa Monica, according to an email sent to supporters.

"We're going to talk a little bit about whether we will move forward with (the initiative to limit development) or not," said Residocracy founder and former City Council candidate Armen Melkonians in an interview with The Lookout. "It's more for information than anything else."

If the group decides to move forward with an initiative, Melkonians said it will settle the development issue that has divided the city.

"I think we have a majority of council members who are pro growth and the majority of residents who aren't," Melkonians said. "We have a conflict between our council members and the people. An initiative on the ballot would put an end to that once and for all."

In 2008, slow growth development groups pushed to enact a similar initiative called Proposition T, or "Residents Initiative to Fight Traffic" (RIFT). It would have limited new commercial development to 75,000 square feet of floor area per year over 15 years, with the exception of schools, hospitals, religious buildings and other “community-serving development.” 

Proposition T was not approved, with 56.5 percent of Santa Monica voters rejecting it. This defeat came despite the measure being endorsed by the city’s five neighborhood groups.

"Prop T made it to the ballot, but was fought hard by developers, spending lots of money, spreading a lot of mistruths," Melkonians said. "Now, residents see what happened and are now opposing development. In 2008, we didn't have all this development, so the mistruths told succeeded in placing doubts in the minds of residents. Today is a different time."

For an initiative to be placed on the ballot, proponents must complete a series of steps laid out in the California State Election Code, including gathering at least 10 percent of registered voters' signatures on a petition. When presented with a certified petition, the City Council has the options to adopt the measure as an ordinance, to place the item on the ballot for the next scheduled municipal election or call for a special election.

Residocracy has already completed the petition process one time, when it submitted more than 13,500 signatures to the City Clerk’s office last month to place the Bergamot Transit Village project as a referendum for voter approval. (“Santa Monica Referendum Gathers More than 13,000 Signatures,” March 12, 2014) 

The 765,000 square-foot mixed-use project would replace the abandoned Papermate factory, across the street from the future site of one of three Expo light rail sites in Santa Monica. Project opponents say it would add too much traffic to an already congested corridor. 

Last Tuesday, the council received the petition and scheduled a hearing for its May 13 meeting to decide whether to rescind approval of the project, schedule a special election or put the referendum on the November ballot. ("Voters Could Determine Santa Monica Development Project's Future," April 25)

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