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Major Developers Bankroll Prop T Opposition

By Jorge Casuso

October 9 -- Thanks to large contributions from major developers, opponents of a local ballot measure to cap commercial development have raised nearly half a million dollars, some five times more than supporters have raised to launch and wage their campaign, according to The Lookout's analysis of campaign finance disclosure statements filed this week.

Save Our City -- which is comprised of a broad-based coalition of community leaders -- has raised $428,880 to oppose Measure T, an initiative on the November 4 ballot that would cap most commercial development in the beachside city at 75,000 square feet a year for 15 years.

While more than 70 contributors have given money, developers, architects and their representatives accounted for a total of $411,518, or 96 percent of all contributions made to the campaign to date, according to finance statements filed for the reporting period ending September 30.

Most of the money has come from five national developers who have each given to date between $45,000 and $50,000, the limit before a contributor’s name must appear on campaign literature.

The five developers are Hines ($49,500), Belle Vue Plaza ($49,500), Equity Office ($45,000), Falcor Lodging Trust ($45,000) and Stockbridge Real Estate Fund ($45,000).

Also making large contributions were Macerich ($30,000); Village Trailer Park ($20,000) and Roberts Business Park ($20,000).

Most of the major contributors are out-of-state companies that own large parcels of prime real estate, some of it slated for large-scale developments.

By contrast, the Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City, which is the sponsor of the ballot measure also known as the Residents’ Initiative to Fight Traffic (RIFT) had raised $86,898 by October 1. About $30,000 of that was used to write the measure and gather the signatures needed to qualify it for the ballot.

Opponents of the measure have spent $344,930, according to the finance statements.. The money has been used for slate mailers, to conduct phone polls, to pay rent for a campaign headquarters and to hire two campaign consultants. Money has also been used to hire seven canvassers who are going door to door and to print and mail fliers.

Save Our City has $98,785 of cash in hand, according to the finance statemenst.

By contrast, supporters of the measure have spent about $92, 372 and reported $15,363 in unpaid bills. They money has been used to print and mail flyers, print lawn signs, pay rent for the campaign headquarters and to hire a part-time campaign consultant.

Some of the major contributors to the campaign to oppose RIFT own prime real estate Downtown near the ocean, according to an analysis of the disclosure statements.

Falcor Lodging Trust, the Irving, Texas-based company that has contributed $45,000 owns the 132-room Holiday Inn on Colorado near Ocean Avenue.

Belle Vue Plaza, which has given $49,500 to date, owns a large parcel on the 100 block of Santa Monica Boulevard a block from Palisades Park, while the Stockbridge Real Estate Fund, which has contributed $45,000, owns two landmark buildings on Ocean Avenue on the same block.

Stockbridge, which is based in San Francisco, plans to build a 73-room hotel on the site, which faces Palisades Park

The Fairmont Miramar Hotel, which is also across from the beachfront park, has donated $25,873 to the effort, most of it in “in kind” donations for use of its facility. The hotel’s owners have floated a plan to add a tower, but have withdrawn the proposal.

Another contributor with plans to build along Santa Monica’s coast is Trammell Crow, which has contributed $6,150. The real estate giant plans to tear down a rent control building on Ocean Avenue and replace it with 25 luxury oceanfront condos, a project that is currently before the Landmarks Commission. ("Tenants Hope Late Mayor Can Save Building," August 25, 2008)

The other major contributors to RIFT’s opposition own land in Santa Monica’s industrial lands near the city’s eastern border, where City officials are steering development.

Hines, a San Francisco-based company that has given $49,500, owns the former Papermate site on Olympic Boulevard in the industrial corridor, where the company plans to build 300,000 square feet of office space on the seven-acre site. Hines recently expanded its Lantana entertainment complex nearby.

Roberts Business Park, which has contributed $20,000, owns the property next to the site of a proposed 150,000-square-foot entertainment and post-production facility for Lionsgate in the city's industrial lands. (“Lionsgate Has Paws on New Entertainment Studio,” December 18, 2007)

Contributing $20,000 to RIFT’s opposition was Village Trailer Park, which is currently negotiating a development agreement with the City to replace one of Santa Monica's two remaining trailer parks with a more than 350-unit complex near the city’s industrial area. (“Part I: Relocation Offer Raises Fears Among Trailer Park Tenants,” May 29, 2008 and "Tenants Hope Late Mayor Can Save Building," August 25, 2008)

Equity Office, the Chicago-based company that has given $45,000, is one of the largest commercial landlords in the city and owns the industrial park on Ocean Park Boulevard near the Santa Monica Airport.

Save Our City has paid Equity Office $8,716 in rent for its campaign headquarters at the industrial park.

Also contributing to the campaign were Macerich, the Santa Monica-based mall owner which has given $30,000 to oppose RIFT. The company has embarked on an ambitious remodel of Santa Monica Place, the indoor mall in Downtown Santa Monica. ("Tour Showcases Mall Metamorphosis," August 7, 2008)

Donating $10,000 to the ant-Rift campaign was Maxeer and Company, which recently filed a proposal to convert the landmark office tower at 710 Wilshire to a 256-room hotel and add a wing with 16 residential units and hotel rooms. Negotiations for the project, which calls for retail on the ground floor and 480 subterranean parking spaces, have been put on hold, planning officials said.

Also contributing $10,000 each were the The Edward Thomas Management Company, which owns two luxury beachfront hotels and a large adjoining surface lot, and Lexus Santa Monica, a Santa Monica auto dealership.

Land use attorney Chris Harding’s firm, which often represents developers in the city, donated $24,000 to the campaign, $14,000 in "in kind" legal services.

Ted Winterer for Santa Monica City Council

Dr. Margaret


Vote # 158


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