Santa Monica Lookout
|More than 200 Protest Santa Monica Development Outside City Hall||
When one lives in a city as breathtakingly beautiful and unique as Santa Monica, inevitably that city will be shared with visitors.
By Daniel Larios
May 14, 2014 –After an exceedingly hot day, more than 200 Santa Monicans stood on the steps of City Hall Tuesday to urge the City Council to rescind a controversial mixed-use project they fear will snarl traffic at the eastern end of the city.
“People Power, Not Corporate Power,” “Hines Go Home,” and “We’re taking our city back” were among the dozens of signs hoisted above the crowd opposing the 765,000-square-foot Bergamot Transit Village across a future Expo Rail line stop in the City’s industrial corridor.
Tuesday’s rally was organized by the slow-growth group Residocracy, which has grown in membership and in political power since the approval of the Hines Development project. ( "Santa Monica City Council Narrowly Approves Bergamot Transit" , February 5, 2014.)
“The City Council has two choices,” Armen Melkonians, the founder of Residocracy, the slow-growth group that organized the rally, told the crowd. “One, to send the developer[Hines] back home: Send them back to Texas.
But, he added, his voice booming through an ad hoc PA system, “I hope they don’t go all the way back to Texas, I hope they stay in Santa Monica so that they could listen to the residents of Santa Monica this time.
Inside, the Council gathered for its regularly scheduled meeting, which featured a decision on whether to put a referendum on the ballot to determine the fate of the Hines Development project or simply rescind approval of the project altogether.
Late this winter, Residocracy led the three-week effort to place the embattled development on the ballot, collecting some 13,500 signatures in a city-wide petition drive, far more than the 6,500 verified signature needed to qualify the measure.
“The City Council could and should listen to the 15,000 voters who signed our petition,” Melkonians said. “Fifteen thousand votes is about the number needed to unseat the people who vote for this project today.”
Speaking to the crowd, Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City co-chair Diana Gordon called the referendum a “vote of no confidence” for the city council, if they put the measure on the ballot.
After the rally, most of the crowd filed into the Council Chambers, with a large number spilling into the lobby of City Hall, where televisions and chairs were set up.
One of those attending was School Board member and Pico Youth Center Director Oscar De La Torre.
“It’s good to see the community united,” de la Torre told the Lookout. “It’s more than just politics; it’s about strengthening relationships with neighbors.
“It’s a true test of a community in how they respond when the community is threatened. I see that Santa Monica has a great future.”
At the time of publication, the City Council had not yet made a decision.
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