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Anti-Development Crowd Protests Outside Santa Monica City Hall

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark

Harding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP  law firm
Harding, Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

Pacific Park, Santa Monica Pier

Santa Monica Convention and Visitors Bureau

By Jason Islas
Staff Writer

February 5, 2014 -- “Hines Project is not healthy for children and other living things” read one sign carried by a protester in the crowd outside Santa Monica City Hall Tuesday.

It was one of dozens of signs hoisted above a crowd of more than a hundred people who rallied on the steps of City Hall to protest the Bergamot Transit Village, a 767,000 square-foot mixed commercial and residential development proposed at 26th Street and Olympic Boulevard.

Inside, the Council gathered for a special meeting to decide the fate of the project proposed by Texas-based developer Hines nearly four years after it was first proposed.

“We have returned to the robber baron days!” Parks and Recreation Chair Phil Brock shouted through an ad-hoc PA system to the crowd.

Over cheers, he added, “Damn it! It’s time to think about our residents who live here now!”

Brock’s words gave way to chants of “No! No!” as residents hoisted signs that read “No more gridlock” and “Save Santa Monica.” One protestor, keeping time with the chants, banged on a bongo.

Tuesday’s rally was organized by the slow-growth group Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City (SMCLC) and the bayside city’s powerful political organization Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights (SMRR).

The crowd turned out Tuesday despite the fact that the Council closed public testimony on the topic last week after a session went into the early hours of the morning.

Instead of speaking in Council chambers, the stoop of City Hall became a pulpit Tuesday.

“This is a quality of life issue,” said SMCLC founder Diana Gordon. At her side was SMRR co-founder and Steering Committee Member Denny Zane who also spoke out against the project.

While the project’s detractors were out in force Tuesday night, proponents of the project opted to sit the meeting out, unlike last week when a number turned out to speak on the project.

Supporters argue that the site, currently occupied by an abandoned Papermate factory, needs a project that would improve the area before the Expo Light rail station across the street opens in 2016.

But the crowd Tuesday repeated the refrain, “too much, too soon, too fast.”

One resident said, “The city is changing more rapidly. People have to understand that we have to take a moment before we go head first into this development.”

Daniel Larios contributed to this report.

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