A woman signs a petition during the citywide referendum signing party outside of Surf Liquor on Saturday. Activists are seeking to nix a City Council-approval of a major development on Olympic Boulevard. (Paul Alvarez Jr. editor@smdp.com)

A woman signs a petition during the citywide referendum signing party outside of Surf Liquor on Saturday. Activists are seeking to nix a City Council approval of a major development on Olympic Boulevard. (Paul Alvarez Jr. editor@smdp.com)

CITYWIDE — How many signatures have been gathered on the petition to fight off Hines’ Bergamot Transit Village project?

We don’t know. Perhaps no one does.  Repeated calls to the founder of Residocracy, the website leading the referendum charge, went unreturned.

The Hines development project at Olympic Boulevard and 26th Street, with its 427 apartments, 374,434 square feet of office, 15,500 square feet of restaurant, and 13,891 square feet of retail across five buildings, was approved by City Council in a 4 to 3 vote earlier this month.

Those opposed to the project believe it should be smaller with less office space and more residential, fearing that it will create more traffic in an already-congested area. Those in favor of the project point to Santa Monica’s creative office space shortage and the $32 million Hines will spend in community benefits.

Anti-Hines groups are shooting for a referendum vote — a special election that would allow the residents to decide whether or not to green light the development. In order to pull it off, they have 30 days from the second reading of the ordinance (which occurred on Feb. 11) to gather about 6,200 signatures from registered Santa Monica voters or 10 percent of local voters.

But signature gatherers have their work cut out for them. It’s not as simple as getting 6,200 John Hancocks on some scrap paper. The City Clerk’s Office oversees the petition and the Los Angeles County Register-Recorder and County Clerk verifies the signatures.

Of course signatures can’t be from any old resident; they have to also be register voters. About a third of Santa Monica’s residents are not registered voters.

“We would check to make sure the voters are registered and if the addresses and signatures are correct,” said Regina Ip, a spokesperson for the county.

In the city by the sea, where seven out of 10 people rent according to a report from the Los Angeles Times, people move around. If you registered to vote when you were living Downtown but signed a petition with your current address in the Pico Neighborhood, your signature is going to get tossed.

And then there’s the sheer weight of the document. The signature pages must be attached to the agreement itself in order to give voters who want to sign an opportunity to read the specifics, said former Santa Monica Mayor Denny Zane.

“The packet is an inch thick,” he said.

Zane is representing Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights (SMRR), the city’s largest political party, in the push to bring the development to a vote. SMRR was an early opponent of the project and voted to back the referendum effort.

Zane has worked on initiatives before, he said, but this is his first referendum, which has its own “peculiar legal challenges.”

“There’s a whole lot of time spent in the beginning to make sure that it’s properly formatted,” he said.

They also have to be sure that volunteers don’t violate rules when soliciting signatures, he said. Zane scored about 25 signatures in an hour and a half last week.

As for the total number gathered: “I have no idea,” Zane said.

We may have to wait until the count is tallied in mid-March.

Anti-Hines groups threw a bunch of referendum signing parties this past weekend.

 

dave@smdp.com

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