CITYWIDE — More than 200 residents gathered at Lincoln Middle School last week to hear the plans for the community group that successfully challenged a controversial development.
Residocracy, led by Armen Melkonians, will have a 12-person advisory committee and a candidates forum that endorses City Council hopefuls.
Residocracy was founded in January and by March had gathered roughly 13,500 petition signatures — more than enough to bring the Hines development project before the voters.
Now that its first goal — halting council’s decision to approve the roughly 765,000-square-foot development — is complete, Melkonians has laid out a framework for the group. He is so set on the future of the organization that he’s decided not to run for council this year.
“I’ve gotten a lot of support from members within the community to run and it was a very difficult decision,” Melkonians said. “I felt that, at the end of the day, my energy and focus needs to be 100 percent with Residocracy at this time.”
The advisory committee is made up of Melkonians and 11 others — the core group of volunteers who gathered signatures for the referendum vote.
Before next week’s council meeting, Residocracy will hold a rally outside City Hall. That night, the council is set to decide whether or not to repeal its 4 to 3 decision to approve the Hines agreement. If council sticks to its guns, the decision will be put to the voters later this year.
Melkonians expects council will overturn its decision without requiring a vote.
At the last council meeting Mayor Pam O’Connor noted that while many signed the petition there are another 40,000 registered voters who’ve not yet weighed in on the project. Melkonians felt this was dismissive.
“At first, when it was 50 people at City Hall, they were dismissed,” he said. “Then it became 100 people at City Hall and they were dismissed. Then it became 200 people at City Hall and they were dismissed. And then we did our electronic petition and we had 600 people sign the petition and they were dismissed and now 13,500 people are being dismissed.”
Melkonians plans to appoint resident lobbyists to voice Residocracy’s opinions to city planners as they create the Downtown Specific Plan and Zoning Ordinance, both of which will regulate land uses in the bay city.
They haven’t yet reached out to city planners, he said.
“We see no reason why they won’t listen,” Melkonians said. “They meet with the land-use attorneys, they meet with the architects and engineers who have a stake in what’s happening but we feel that residents are the number one stakeholder and so there should be some kind of resident group that’s meeting with them.”
If council continues to approve large developments, he said, Residocracy would consider putting forward a ballot initiative that, if approved, would require all proposed developments over a certain size to go before voters.
“The referendum was intended to let our City Council know how our residents feel about all this massive development; it was 13,500 people speaking out about one project,” Melkonians said. “We have 35 projects in the pipeline. If City Council ignores us on the one project, then the initiative would be aimed at limiting development citywide.”
Ballot initiatives require signatures from 15 percent of registered voters over the course of 180 days. As of this year, there were 65,253 registered voters in the city. They would not have time to get the initiative on the ballot by November, Melkonians said.
Residocracy will have a celebratory barbecue at Clover Park at noon on May 31.
Members of the advisory board include Melkonians, Kate Bransfield, Tricia Crane, Zina Josephs, Carol Landsberg, Mary Marlow, Ellen Hannan, Maria Loya, Ed Hunsaker, Cathy McCabe, Laura Wilson and Ellen Brennan.