Residocracy, the group that spearheaded a voter referendum against what was then the Hines Project, has posted a new e-petition online to see if there is enough support for a ballot initiative that would limit development in Santa Monica.
Based on the description online, a potential ballot initiative would require voter approval for several kinds of development decisions including development agreements, development above Tier 1 and major amendments to planning documents.
E-petitions are not official documents and do not have any legal standing. The petitions are more like surveys open to anyone who wants to fill out the form. In this case, potential signers are being asked if they support the petition’s goals, if they would be willing to circulate an actual petition at a later date and how many people they think would sign the petition.
If enough people sign the e-petition, Residocracy would begin work on an actual petition for a ballot initiative. The group does not state what their threshold is for escalating the project.
The organization has hosted several anti-development e-petitions. In April, the organization posted an e-petition on its website in opposition to the updated Zoning Ordinance. In that case, Council approved the new rules.
Residocracy also has e-petitions up and running against the proposed redevelopment of the Fairmont Miramar Hotel and the proposed mixed-use development on Arizona Avenue at Fourth and Fifth streets.
Under current rules, development that exceeds zoning restrictions or that is proposed for an area lacking specific zoning rules, can occur under a development agreement. The city and the developer agree to a binding contract that requires actions from the developer in exchange for approval of the project. Supporters say the system allows the City to extract additional benefits from a project while critics say the system allows developers to bypass the rules for too little gain.
Tier 1 development is the least intense classification in Santa Monica. Tier 1 development is usually limited to up to three stories in most areas of the city and four stories in Downtown.
Santa Monica’s planning documents have been recently updated. Both the Zoning Code and Land Use Circulation Element underwent major revisions in the past year. However, the Downtown Specific Plan has yet to be formally adopted.
According to the e-petition, a ballot initiative would preserve the existing character of Santa Monica and fight the influence of special interest groups.
Mayor Kevin McKeown said the proposal would actually increase the influence of developer groups.
“Certain truly community-changing projects, like hotel/condo towers along our oceanfront, should go to the voters, and I proposed that last year,” he said. “Sending virtually all approvals to the ballot would only draw still more developer money into our elections, and further distort the local democratic process.”