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Santa Monica LUVE Initiative Qualifies for November Ballot
Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark
Roque & Mark Real Estate
2802 Santa Monica Boulevard
Santa Monica, CA 90404
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Harding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP  law firm
Harding, Larmore
Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

Convention and Visitors Bureau Santa Monica


By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

June 1, 2016 -- A measure that would require a public vote on most new development in Santa Monica has gathered enough valid signatures to be placed on the November ballot, sponsors of the initiative said Tuesday.

Armen Melkonians and Tricia Crane, who helped craft the Land Use Voter Empowerment (LUVE) initiative for the slow-growth group, said the Los Angeles County Registrar's Office notified them that the 6,500 valid signatures needed for a public vote had been reached.

“They stopped counting when they reached 6,500 (valid) signatures,” Melkonians said minutes after learning the measure had earned a place in the General Election this fall. “The LUVE initiative is going to win.”

More than 10,000 signatures supporting the measure were submitted to county elections officials for verification last month ("Organizers for Santa Monica LUVE Initiative Say Signature Goal Met," May 3, 2016).

If adopted, the measure would require a public vote for most developments larger than two stories and major changes to City planning policies. Affordable and moderate-income housing developments would be exempted from LUVE, as well as projects that are 100 percent senior citizen housing and single-unit dwellings.

Now that the measure has been qualified, the City Council has until late July to adopt the measure or place it on the November ballot.

Melkonians and Crane said they do not anticipate Council approval, since the measure is opposed by the slow-growth majority. There also has been talk among LUVE critics of placing a competing ballot measure.

Already two opposition groups have formed campaign committees to battle LUVE ("Campaigns Against Santa Monica's LUVE Initiative Form," May 25, 2016).

LUVE petitions began circulating in March in reaction to major developments proposed for the bayside city, particularly the proposed construction of a 320-foot high, 21-story high-rise for expansion of the Fairmont Miramar Hotel.

After spurring vocal opposition, the Miramar blueprints were withdrawn, although some type of expansion of the hotel is still anticipated.

Other developments that worry slow-growth advocates are a high-rise plaza proposed for City owned land at 4th and 5th streets and Arizona and a draft downtown development plan that critics say will allow too much building and congestion ("Vote on Downtown Plan Delaayed Yet Again," March 31, 2016).

Much of LUVE’s backing comes from neighborhood groups who say they are frustrated with traffic and fearful that more development will diminish the seaside city’s charm and quality of life.

LUVE is strongly opposed by most of Santa Monica’s political establishment, which says it will stop the construction of much needed new housing, among other criticisms.

LUVE supporters are bracing for a full-scale war against opponents financed by developers and other critics of the measure. LUVE’s backers have about $30,000 in donations, and Crane said much more is anticipated now that the initiative has qualified.

“Many people told us they would (financially) support us if LUVE got on the ballot,” she said.

One LUVE critic was ready as soon as word got out about the initiative’s step toward a public vote.

"The Council can now get expert analysis of the measure's impacts, which I expect will include increased developer money skewing local politics, as well as suppressed housing production,” Council Member Kevin McKeown said in an email to the Lookout.

“We're all frustrated by traffic, but once the public is better informed about the Residocracy initiative, I expect support for such an extreme measure to wane,” he said.

“I look forward to a robust discussion about the inclusive community we aspire to be, and how we can deal with traffic and quality of life issues without sacrificing our egalitarian and democratic values."

The Council engaged in a battle with Residocracy in 2014, when the grassroots group collected approximately 13,500 signatures for a ballot measure challenging the council's approval of the Bergamot Transit Village development.

Enough valid signatures were collected for the measure to go to a vote, but the Council voted instead to rescind approval for the development ("Council Repeals Approval of Controversial Development," May 14, 2014).

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