MY WRITE — It appears that the political dust is settling now that the powerful Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights (SMRR) Steering Committee has picked two council candidates to endorse.
You can bet the family Prius that SMRR’s power-hungry governing body will add a third endorsement once the in-fighting and bickering is resolved. If SMRR co-founder and Steering Committee honcho Denny Zane can’t get a Steering Committee endorsement for his client Sue Himmelich, he’s not worth his $7,500 (to date) retainer.
As most of you are aware, council incumbent Kevin McKeown and 15-year SMRR volunteer/planning commissioner Jennifer Kennedy have already received SMRR’s nod.
McKeown sent me an email. He was in a pique over my comment in last Monday’s My Write (“SMRR endorses, Residocracy croaks”) about the UNITE HERE hospitality union’s support for two candidates at the convention. I had written, “Candidates had to fully support UNITE HERE’s agenda if they expected endorsement. It would appear that McKeown and (Frank) Gruber, who were both endorsed, promised to deliver the union’s pro-hotel/pro-development wish list.”
McKeown asked me to stop accusing him of selling out. “The union supported me because of years of history on standing for workers’ rights and fair wages, NOT because I’m a vote for development,” he wrote.
I also suspect that UNITE HERE supported McKeown because he’s the strongest and best-liked candidate running for City Council. Once again, he should be the biggest vote-getter in November.
In preparing last week’s My Write, I talked to council candidates and UNITE HERE members. I was told that the union’s endorsement would go to those candidates who most supported the union’s goals: generous living wages, new hotel and “affordable” housing development.
Candidates at UNITE HERE interviews who favored unrestricted development were favored over candidates who leaned toward the prevailing resident desire for less height and density or fewer and more neighborhood-friendly developments.
If a candidate advocated for smaller, boutique type hotels with restricted heights over larger projects such as the proposed six floor hotel at the redeveloped Bergamot Station Arts Center, he or she would be less likely to receive the union’s blessings.
While McKeown makes a big deal about wanting strict height limitations on Ocean Avenue, further inland he’s not as adamant. McKeown was one vote in a unanimous council decision on June 10 to encourage the developers of a massive project proposed for city-owned land on Arizona Avenue between Fourth and Fifth Streets to plan for a massive 12 floor, 148 foot high development (instead of a 48 foot one) that includes four floors of hotel space.
McKeown is a big advocate of more “affordable” housing. It’s City Hall’s and SMRR’s number one priority. Hotels are number two.
Despite SMRR leaders and City Council’s lame attempts to separate “housing” from “development,” virtually all new development is housing. There’re no office or commercial projects, only a few hotels to keep the unions happy.
Thousands of new apartments and a half-dozen new hotels contribute to traffic gridlock, crowding, sustainability and livability issues. The big dichotomy here is that there will be no cutting back the amount of development proposed in Santa Monica without reducing either the size, scale and number of new apartment buildings and hotels.
McKeown’s threshold — along with slow-growth councilpersons such as Ted Winterer and Tony Vazquez — as to how much housing (development) is needed is much higher than mine or many slow-growth residents who say we need to slow down the blind rush to build more.
It’s unfortunate that McKeown interpreted my comments as “selling out,” but he obviously told the union bosses what they wanted to hear. I’m sure that his popularity and long pro-union, pro-hospitality industry history was a big plus, too.

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Future slum a science-fiction nightmare
The redesigned Millennium East Village project proposed for the site of the current Village Trailer Park is before the Architectural Review Board tonight. You can see the development’s new elevations and floor plans in the Planning Department Case List website under “2930 Colorado Ave.”
When the East Village went before City Council, I called it a massive, overcrowded, densely packed, rabbit warren of apartments then would quickly become a slum.
For the record, McKeown consistently voted against numerous pro-East Village motions including acceptance of the environmental impact report for the project when it was before council for Development Agreement review on March 19, 2013.
By the way, council candidate Sue Himmelrich was the only current council candidate who spoke against the development during public comment at that March 19 hearing.
Once approved, the original developer Marc Luzzatto then sold off development rights to Houston-based The Dinerstein Companies and made tens of millions of dollars in the process. The new development entity – Millennium Santa Monica LLC – now proposes a series of white cubes cantilevered over ground level plazas – copied from the suspended black modules at the Belmar Apartments in the Civic Center?
Millennium East Village is still a dense, five floor housing complex, 57 feet tall, with 339,250 sq. ft of total space – 24,893 sq. ft is commercial space for ground floor retail. Think Starbucks and Subway. It will contain 374 apartments with 38 designated as low income, a 705 vehicle parking garage and 638 bicycle racks.
From the street, it looks like a giant, white, human vacuum from a cheap sci-fi movie. It’s a failed attempt at a futuristic architecture and totally out of scale and character with its neighborhood.
This is still one bad development that shouts, “Look at me, I’m butt ugly!”

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Bill can be reached at mr.bilbau@gmail.com

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