Santa Monica Lookout
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A Slow Start to Santa Monica’s Recent Referendum Effort

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and MarkHarding 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 19, 2014 -- The headquarters for the powerful tenants’ group, Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights (SMRR), was mostly empty Saturday morning save for a few scattered chairs and a make-shift work station where Planning Commissioner Jennifer Kennedy sat hunkered over her computer.

Kennedy, who started working 8 a.m. in the small, one-room building on a sleepy corner of Broadway, sat awaiting opponents of the Bergamot Transit Village project, approved by the City Council with a 4-to-3 vote last Tuesday.

The quiet, empty room was a far cry from Wednesday, when members of SMRR’s leadership, the city’s seven neighborhood groups and about 250 locals enthusiastically gathered to kick off a campaign to put the project to the voters. ("SMRR, Neighborhood Groups Rally for Anti-Development Referendum," February 14)

“It’s a commitment, but it can be done,” Kennedy said, gesturing to the pile of petitions on the table next to her.

Each packet was almost 400 pages long -- since it must include the full text of the development agreement being challenged -- and had room for about 100 signatures.

With 30 days to collect 6,100 signatures from registered Santa Monica voters, SMRR and its allies -- including the anti-development group Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City (SMCLC) -- were wasting no time getting the word out to their members, but that didn’t appear to translate into people on the ground.

Saturday marked the start of the first weekend since the effort to overturn the Council’s decision began and SMRR had sent out word to its members that opponents of the 765,000 square foot project could come by headquarters to sign the petition or if they wanted to pick up a copy and circulate the petition themselves.

Kennedy wouldn’t say how many people had come since she set up that morning, but from about 11 a.m. to noon, one person came in to pick up a petition.

That dearth of volunteers was reflected throughout the city at the traditional places for gathering signatures like local markets, parks and libraries.

The Lookout spent several hours Saturday visiting these locations, including Bob’s Market, Clover Park, Co-opportunity Natural Foods and the Main Branch and Ocean Park libraries, but failed to find any signature gatherers.

However, volunteers are out there, according to local observers. Former mayor Mike Feinstein said he saw signature gatherers at the Ocean Park Farmers Market Sunday.

Parks and Recreation Chair Phil Brock -- who announced he would run for City Council in November -- said that he has collected about 130 signatures around Palisades Park and Montana Avenue.

Mary Marlow announced via email Sunday that SMCLC had volunteers camped out at St. Monica’s and that others should gather signatures at the Main Street Starbucks.

Feinstein said that for the referendum to be successful, volunteers should average about 330 signatures everyday until March 14, when the signatures are due.

He thinks it can be done, but that it’s a matter of putting in the time.

“The receptivity is there,” said Feinstein. “It’s just about getting (the petition) in front of people.”

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