Santa Monica Lookout
|Residocracy Vies to Become Political Force in Santa Monica||
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 5, 2014 – The Internet-based slow growth group Residocracy.org announced plans Thursday to become a major political force in Santa Monica.
More than 200 local residents gathered at the Lincoln Middle School Auditorium to organize a movement that would turn out voters, lobby City officials and sponsor potential initiatives to slow development in the beachside city.
It was a rallying cry from Residocracy leaders who led a drive that qualified a referendum that would rescind a development agreement to build a 765,000-square-foot project in the City’s industrial corridor.
“Residents show up during city council hearings, sometimes by the hundreds, and speak against development projects,” Residocracy founder Melkonians said during the meeting. “And what we’ve seen in the past is that residents are marginalized and cast aside. That’s our current system and it’s broken.
“But the system is about to change,” added Melkonians. “We as a community network of residents are going to make that change, we’re going to demand that change, and we’re going to be a part of that change. So now let’s look at the future.”
Melkonians announced the formation of a Residocracy Advisory Board, comprised of activists from all areas of the city. Members of the newly established Board are Melkonians, Kate Bransfield, Ellen Brennan, Tricia Crane, Zina Josephs, Carol Landsberg, Ellen Hannan, Mary Marlow, Maria Loya, Ed Hunsaker, Cathy McCabe, and Laura Wilson.
After the announcement of the Board, announced the creation of two resident committees -- a Zoning Committee and a Downtown Specific Plan Committee -- that will “come up with non-negotiable items that we want addressed in the zoning code and the Downtown Specific Plan,” according to Melkonians.
“It’s going to be the lobbyist for residents,” he added.
The meeting also included a detailed update on the referendum petition drive that gathered 13,500 signatures in 19 days.
According to Residocracy, 350 community volunteers brought in at least 11,000 signatures, other community groups brought in at least 600 signatures, and 2,000 signatures were collected by paid signature gatherers.
Of the 13,500 signatures collected, 167 were identified as duplicates and 1,634 were rejected, according to the County Registrar’s office, which counted and verified the petition signatures.
“If we can’t outspend them [the developers], we can out-people them,” John Petz, a longtime community activist, told the crowd.
The petition is currently on the agenda for the May 13 City Council meeting, where members of Residocracy are planning a rally in front of city hall at 6:00 p.m.
The City Council has three options concerning the petition: rescind approval of the project, schedule a special election or put the referendum on the November ballot. (“Voters Could Determine Santa Monica Development Project's Future,” April 25, 2014
If the Council does anything but rescind the approval, Melkonians said there would be a war.
“We have 13,500 voters behind us,” said Melkonians. “I’ve always said that Residocracy is an infant. To me it’s a thirteen thousand and a half pound infant, that’s what it is.”
“So where does a 13,500 pound infant sit?” he joked. “Anywhere it wants.”
Later in the evening, Residocracy board member Brennan called for more direct action in the event the referendum fails. Options include voter initiatives limiting buildings to a certain height and density or requiring mandatory parking spaces for every new expected resident.
“City Staff, from top to bottom, and the present majority on the council have an overarching goal: to raise city revenue from Santa Monica by overdeveloping every inch of ground in this city,” Brennan said.
“Making sure that tax from new development would always pay for the bloated needs of one of the largest and highest paid City Staffs in the country, while completely ignoring the consideration of the limitations and capacity of our streets, the necessity of parking and the promises made to protect neighborhoods.
“In so doing, they are completely destroying our quality of life,” Brennan added.
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