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Proponents of Development Initiative to Hit Streets Tuesday

By Jorge Casuso

February 4 -- Foot soldiers for Measure R and presidential candidates won’t be the only ones pounding the pavement on Super Tuesday to sway voters.

Volunteers for the Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City will be gathering signatures to place on the November ballot an initiative that would limit future non-residential development in Santa Monica over the next 15 years.

“This Tuesday will be the best, easiest, most productive day for us to gather signatures for our initiative to fight traffic growth by limiting commercial development,” read an email sent Sunday by SMCLC.

“Going to polling places (100 feet from the entrance) will be a very target rich environment, as we will only be encountering registered Santa Monica voters to sign our petition,” the email said.

Proponents say that if approved the measure -- which limits commercial development to 75,000 square feet of floor area a year -- would “prevent the massive overdevelopment of our neighborhoods” by cutting the city’s projected commercial growth in half.

“By capping annual commercial development at a level that allows a reasonable rate of growth, this measure will ensure that our city has the time to develop the physical, economic and social infrastructure to keep pace with development,” states a draft of the initiative.

The measure, proponents contend, “will give our city the opportunity to create a competitive selection process for potential commercial development, resulting in high-quality projects.”

The measure would help stem “an unprecedented expansion” that added 8.6 million square feet of commercial development between 1980 and 2004 and led to Santa Monica’s current traffic and parking woes, proponents contend.

The initiative, which was submitted to the City Clerk last month, comes half a year after the City Council rejected a moratorium pushed by neighborhood groups in favor of an emergency interim ordinance that requires development agreements for large projects in Santa Monica’s industrial corridor.

Residents, who had been clamoring for a citywide moratorium, were dismayed by the ordinance – which covers projects that contain more than 7,500 square feet of floor area or more than 15 housing, artist studio or single-room occupancy units -- saying it did not go far enough to curb major development.

“There is a dark side to development agreements as understood in this city for the last 30 years,” Diana Gordon, an advisory board member for SMCLC, told the council in August.

“Residents don’t like development agreements because new rules are made for developers -- developers who don’t have to follow zoning ordinances for a particular area or keep their obligations to provide public benefits such as community rooms or daycare centers,” Gordon said.

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