By Jorge Casuso
July 29 -- A new group that includes more than
two dozen political and civic leaders from both sides of
Santa Monica’s deeply divided political spectrum is
raising money and rallying volunteers to help defeat an
anti-development measure on the November ballot.
Called “Save Our City,” the group charges that
the Residents Initiative to Fight Traffic (RIFT) -- which
would cap most local commercial development at 75,000 feet
a year for the next 15 years -- is “too risky for
local schools” and “detrimental to Santa Monica
residents’ quality of life.”
The group, which counts of the support of five council
members and four former mayors, includes leaders of the
Chamber of Commerce as well as of Santa Monicans for Renters’
Rights (SMRR), the powerful tenant rights group that has
controlled local politics for most of the past three decades.
“This is a different group than we’ve ever
seen before,” said Terry O’Day, a Planning Commissioner
and co-chair of Save Our City. “We have people who’ve
never worked at the same table. It (RIFT) has really galvanized
O’Day, who ran for a council seat two years ago as
a SMRR opponent with the chamber’s backing, is sharing
the chair’s post with Judy Abdo, a former mayor and
The group, which has been meeting quietly as a committee
for about two months, has been raising money to defeat RIFT.
Save Our City also has hired political consultant Barbara
Grover to run its campaign.
Save Our City must counter RIFT’s emotionally-driven
campaign that touts the measure as a way to fight traffic,
O’Day said. The group will use information from a
report commissioned by the council that analyzes the impacts
of the measure, O’Day said.
“It’s a single broad-brush solution to a complex
problem that won’t work,” said O’Day,
who is executive director of Environment Now. “It
doesn’t impact traffic but has a lot of unintended
“RIFT is so full of loopholes that the damage it
will do to the city will be felt for years to come,”
Among the unintended consequences of RIFT – which
Save Our City calls “one of the most detrimental ballot
measures in Santa Monica’s history” -- will
be a $1-million-a-year reduction in City funding for the
School District, according to the group’s leaders.
RIFT also would allow “massive development of expensive
condos in already dense residential neighborhoods, displacing
renters and further diminishing the city’s supply
of affordable housing,” according to a statement released
by the group Monday.
“It will tie the hands of non-profits, like the YMCA,
that want to improve services to our youth community, and
hospitals that want to improve medical care to residents
through updating outpatient facilities and laboratories,”
according to the group.
But it will take money and volunteers to counter RIFT’s
message that curbing development will reduce traffic, O’Day
“It’s a complicated message, and it’s
tricky,” he said. “We need real funding.”
O’Day said the group is “much broader”
than the 25 to 30 members on the committee and counts on
the support of “activists, teachers, parents, renters
rights leaders, homeowners, environmentalists, historic
preservationists, religious leaders and non-profits.”
Among the group’s supporters are former mayors Abdo,
Nat Trives, Paul Rosenstein and Michael Feinstein and several
members of the School and College boards.
Also opposing RIFT are the Police Officers and Firefighters
unions, two of the most powerful political forces in local
“Our children deserve better than RIFT. Renters
deserve better than RIFT. Seniors deserve better than RIFT.
RIFT is just too risky for Santa Monica,” O’Day