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Referendum Drive about Bigger Change to Santa Monica Politics, Supporters Say

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By Jason Islas
Staff Writer

February 21, 2014 -- With about three weeks to go to collect the 6,100 signatures required to put the recently-approved Bergamot Transit Village on the November ballot, supporters of the referendum have stepped-up their efforts.

From hosting “signing parties” at individual homes to carrying petitions to Parent-Teacher Association meetings to driving petitions to people’s houses, local real estate agent Kate Bransfield said that supporters are pounding the pavement.

While The Lookout was unable to find any signature-gatherers over the course of several hours last Saturday, Bransfield -- who has dedicated half her ad space in a local newspaper to the cause -- said that that doesn’t reflect the level of support she has seen to overturn the 765,000 square foot project. (“A Slow Start to Santa Monica’s Recent Referendum Effort,” February 19)

Bransfield’s office is the headquarters for -- the online group leading the referendum drive -- and in the week and a half since the referendum started, she said she’s been constantly on the phone with people interested in helping out.

But she also said that the “groundswell” of support for the referendum is about more than just the project. It’s about changing the nature of politics in Santa Monica. sprang up last January with the hope that it would eventually allow any resident to create and circulate petitions on the Internet to challenge decisions by City Hall without having to go through Santa Monica’s traditional powerbrokers. (“Former Santa Monica City Council Candidate Takes to the Internet to Protest Development,” January 8)

That has not stopped the bayside city’s most influential powerbroker, Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights (SMRR), from allying itself with Residocracy to overturn the project.

Though three of the six SMRR-backed City Council members voted in favor of the Hines project, the organization’s leadership -- with the urging of former mayor and SMRR co-founder Denny Zane -- voted to support the referendum. (“Santa Monicans for Renters' Rights Votes to Back Referendum Against Hines Development,” February 8)

“I think SMRR has to change with the scope of the city. Right now, I think Denny Zane is trying to steer them in the right direction,” said Parks and Recreation Chair Phil Brock, who will run for City Council in November.

“While SMRR may have originally supported the development, the turnaround is positive,” said Brock, who has collected about 150 signatures. “SMRR realized they were in danger of losing support.

“There is a tempest brewing,” he said.

Former mayor Mike Feinstein said, “We can have shifting coalitions around shared issues and align with each other on those issues.

“If we can’t work with some people on one issue when you disagree with them on something else, we can’t have a healthy democracy,” he said.

Opponents of the Bergamot Transit Village have until March 14 to submit the signatures if the development agreement will be put on the ballot.

Brock said this weekend will be telling of their odds. While there are more than 300 petitions circulating, many of which were given out at an event last Wednesday, it is unclear how many signatures a day volunteers are averaging. (“SMRR, Neighborhood Groups Rally for Anti-Development Referendum,” February 14) “Ideally, I'd like to see that Sunday we have 4,000 signatures,” he said.

Melkonians told The Lookout earlier in the month that he did not like the idea of paying signature gatherers, but Brock said there is talk that that may soon change.

However the referendum plays out, Feinstein said, he thinks that ultimately this is about one project.

“This isn’t any sort of referendum on any other policy issues in the city,” Feinstein said. “Having been one of the core organizers of the successful effort to place the 1993 Civic Center Specific plan on the ballot, I welcome the new wave of residents who care about their quality of life and are willing to act aggressively to preserve it.”

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