A number of residents are circulating a referendum petition to recall City Council’s approval of a development agreement for the Bergamot Transit Village. Opposition to the massive 766,000-square-foot project proposed for 26th Street and Olympic Boulevard is being led by grassroots organization Residocracy.org.
Literally hours after council gave its final approval of the development agreement in February, between 200-300 Santa Monicans took Residocracy’s referendum petitions and hit the streets.
6,500 valid signatures are needed to force a public vote on the development agreement. Gatherers have only 30 days (March 14) to collect signatures. When the Residocracy folks and their supporters get the necessary signatures, City Council will be required by law to reconsider and repeal the Bergamot project or to place it on the ballot for the November election thus letting Santa Monica voters decide the fate of the development.
Everyone needs to sign the petition to take City Hall back from special interests and send a message to the politicians and staff who continually ignore us.
The much-hated Bergamot project and development in general will be the big issue in the upcoming election. Aside from stopping a very unpopular project, voters will be able to change the balance between slow-growth and pro-development members on council.
Two pro-development councilpersons are on the hot seat. If they fail to be re-elected and two slow-growth candidates replace them, the council balance shifts to five to two who favor slow growth. Then, the 2016 election should usher in two more anti-development council persons for a “full house.”
Overly large and unpopular development proposals traditionally pushed by city planning staff will no longer fly. The way that development and traffic issues are handled will change, big time, after the power balance flips. The new order of doing business will apply to City Hall managers and department heads, too.
The last time that Santa Monicans got this fired up about a development was in February of 1973 when an out-of-touch City Council voted to demolish the Santa Monica Pier and adjacent Newcomb Pier to build a causeway and a 50-acre, man-made island offshore (where the breakwater is now) that would feature a luxury, high rise hotel and convention center.
Within days, thousands of enraged Santa Monicans formed a number of citizen groups to kill the island proposal and “Save the Piers.” Under pressure, council then voted to forgo the island but held fast on tearing down the so-called “crime-ridden” piers by refusing to rescind its demolition order.
In those times, municipal elections were held in May and as fate would have it, the three councilmen who voted multiple times to tear down the piers were up for re-election that spring.
I was one of many Santa Monicans who fought to save the piers and I — along with others — worked like a banshee to retire the three anti-piers councilpersons.
Election day came. Rumor is that Bob Gabriel, Arthur Rinck and James Reidy were sitting around their headquarters election night, watching their dismal returns and ruminating about how they didn’t realize how much the public loved the piers.
They were replaced by three new persons who immediately rescinded the demolition order and pledged to save and preserve what has become the city’s most beloved landmark.
History does repeat itself. Today, four members of the current council are as out of out of touch with public opinion as the council of 1973 was. Some members are in denial. Despite what one member of the dais told her colleagues during a recent council meeting recess, we will remember.
If you want to circulate or sign a petition, go online at Residocracy.org. You’ll be joining with all seven of the neighborhood associations, Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City (SMCLC), Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights (SMRR), UNITE HERE, Local 11 and other groups and community leaders who support this effort.
Thanks and many props for those who got this going and who are responsible for the referendum: Armen Melkonians who created Residocracy, Diana Gordon (SMCLC), realtor Kate Bransfield and board members of the seven neighborhood groups.
Mail in my box
I received loads of e-mails in my Gmail box about last week’s column on traffic and City Hall’s transportation (mis)management’s determination to jam things up instead of getting things moving.
Phil Brock who is chair of the Recreation and Parks Commission and an announced City Council candidate told me that bicyclists have complained about getting squeezed at intersections where sidewalk curb extensions extend into intersections and force vehicles against them in the narrow traffic lanes. He adds that planning and traffic engineering staff are aware of the condition but are doing nothing about it. Except maybe putting in more curb extensions?
Another reader e-mailed: “Santa Monica residents are becoming increasingly road-raged and we are rejecting our former polite behavior. If we could only elect new council members who would intelligently address our current massive traffic jams, poor signal-timing, construction, etc., things would be pretty nice. But I think that’s called ‘when we get pie in the sky, in the great bye-and-bye!’”
And, another e-mail: “Don’t get me started on the cock-a-mamie plans to ‘mediate’ traffic problems on Michigan and Pico to help poor confused Santa Monica High School students. Surely they are old enough to learn how and where to cross streets.”
Another reader writes: “Your columns give me hope that it might still be possible to save SM from the crazies.”
Bill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.