I will not be signing the Hines referendum petition and here’s why.
Outside of our two-year election cycle, I am unwilling to second-guess the City Council and take on the responsibility for governing our city. We elected these council members to manage Santa Monica’s affairs. They make 10 decisions each time they meet, working late into the night for little pay. Overturning this vote after seven years of negotiations, studies and public comment undermines the principle of representative government. This is our City Council; we chose its members, and I believe they are mindful of our interests. Unhappy with one or more of them? Fix it this November at the ballot box, but don’t step into their shoes and make decisions for them.
I know our council members. I’ve voted for them and contributed to four of their campaigns, split evenly between Hines “yes” and “no” voters. I trust the council’s judgment and values, and appreciate the care its members have brought to this issue.
Many of us look disdainfully at Sacramento, hamstrung by decades of legislation-by-proposition, and at Washington, DC, where obstructing duly-passed laws is commonplace. I fear that predicament in Santa Monica.
“But we’ve got to stop these developers,” my friends say. “We need to send a message.”
Be careful what you wish for. The approved development plan was years in the making and adheres to the Land Use & Circulation Element. Taking the matter into our own hands, can we do better? Something will eventually be built on the Papermate site, or Hines might merely lease out the existing building, all 300,000 commercial square feet of it.
I respect both the process and our friends who are soliciting these signatures (I’m an active Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights member). But I worry that getting those 6,500 signatures could be a pyrrhic victory, exposing us to a divisive referendum campaign (with big dollars funding over-simplified mailers), risking a worse outcome for this 7-acre site, weakening our elected representatives and ultimately discouraging the best among us from public service.