CITY HALL — The fight to derail a controversial development near the forthcoming Exposition Light Rail Line cleared another hurdle as the city clerk confirmed Wednesday the total number of signatures collected for a referendum was over 13,000, far more than what is required.
City Clerk Sarah Gorman and her staff have completed their “facial” count of signatures from registered Santa Monica voters and submitted those to the Los Angeles County Clerk’s Office for official verification.
Supporters of the referendum on the Bergamot Transit Village project need roughly 6,500 signatures to send the project back to the City Council, which can rescind its permission for the development to proceed or place the issue before voters during a special election or place it on the General Election ballot in November.
Gorman said her staff merely checked to make sure “all the boxes were filled in correctly” and that addresses listed by those who signed were located in Santa Monica. She did not check to see if people signed the referendum petition twice.
The real work verifying is done by the county, where voter registrations will be pulled to see if those signatures are from registered voters and that addresses match records on file. The county has 30 business days from receipt to submit its findings to City Hall.
Gorman must then place the issue on the City Council’s agenda for the meeting directly following verification, that is unless the verification comes less than 72 hours before that meeting. Agenda items must be posted for the public at least 72 hours before the meeting per the Brown Act.
The Bergamot Transit Village development agreement was approved by the City Council with a 4-3 vote last month.
The four council members who approved the Hines development are Mayor Pam O’Connor, Mayor Pro Tem Terry O’Day, Gleam Davis and Bob Holbrook.
Texas-based developer Hines plans to erect five buildings containing roughly 765,000 square feet of office space, housing and retail at the corner of 26th Street and Olympic Boulevard.
Critics point to the 7,000 additional car trips the development will add to the area, which is one of the city’s most congested.
Volunteers with the Residocracy movement, which is leading the referendum effort, said they want a project that is not as tall and includes more housing, which generates less traffic. They also want more green space instead of buildings situated so close together that they create canyons.
Supporters celebrated the project as a gateway to the city and a compliment to the adjacent Bergamot Expo Line Station. They said it was a good example of transit-oriented development because of its focus on sustainability, open space, affordable housing, and its variety of transportation options. Many also supported the developer’s contribution to early childhood education and aggressive transportation demand management programs intended to cut down car trips.
The city staff report’s economic analysis presented to the council identified $32 million in community benefits.
That figure towers over the roughly $31,000 raised in monetary and in-kind contributions received by Residocracy’s referendum committee, Save Our Town, according to the latest campaign disclosure statement filed with the city clerk.
The Huntley Hotel, which is fighting its own battle to block the redevelopment of its neighbor, the Fairmont Miramar Hotel, donated the most cash — $10,000.
The Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City, which is known for its slow-growth stance, kicked in $4,000.
Armen Melkonians, founder of Residocracy.org, loaned a total of $4,642.80 to the effort through his engineering firm AMEC, LLC, according to the campaign statement. That money paid for the printing of the petitions, he said.
Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights, the city’s leading political party with a track record of securing votes in municipal elections, donated $900 in the form of signature gatherers, while realtor Kate Bransfield donated just over $2,600 in advertising.
“I’m definitely jumping up and down because typically 20 percent [of signatures] signatures get kicked out so we’re pretty confident” the referendum will qualify, Melkonians said Friday. “This represents a resounding roar from the residents. It’s a policy changing voice.”
Melkonians believes the council will rescind the ordinance and save cash by not putting it on the ballot.