CITYWIDE — Residents attempting to stop a major development project through a referendum gained a major ally this week.
Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights (SMRR), the largest political party in the city, announced they will support the referendum, which, if successful, could bring the Hines agreement in front of the voters.
All but one of the City Council members, Bob Holbrook, has been endorsed by SMRR.
Hines plans to construct five buildings on a 7-acre plot of land at Olympic Boulevard and 26th Street with 427 apartments, 374,434 square feet of office, 15,500 square feet of restaurant, and 13,891 square feet of retail.
Opponents say it’s too big with too much office space and that it will create more traffic in an already congested area.
Advocates of the development point to its location near the incoming Expo Light Rail station, the $32 million Hines will spend on community benefits, and the fact that there is a shortage of creative office space in Santa Monica.
Councilmember Gleam Davis, Mayor Pam O’Connor, and Mayor Pro Tempore Terry O’Day voted for the project, along with Holbrook, despite SMRR’s opposition.
Davis, O’Connor, and O’Day did not respond to the Daily Press’ request for comment on SMRR’s decision.
O’Connor’s term, along with the terms of Holbrook, and Councilmember Kevin McKeown, expire at the end of this year.
After council approved the agreement in a 4 to 3 vote, several resident groups announced plans to fight the decision through a referendum. Those residents have 30 days to gather signatures from 10 percent of the registered voters in the city, around 6,200 signatures.
SMRR voted over the weekend to support the referendum.
The motion to back the referendum had “overwhelming support” from both the steering committee and the meeting’s attendees, said SMRR Co-Chair Patricia Hoffman.
“It wasn’t a close call,” she said.
Hoffman could not recall the last time, if ever, that SMRR backed a referendum.
SMRR did not officially back Measure T, which would have placed an annual 75,000-square-foot cap on commercial growth in 2008.
“On Measure T we were very divided,” she said. “So SMRR did not take a position either to favor or oppose that measure.”
SMRR has a strong track record of endorsing winning candidates. But because SMRR members vote on which candidates to support each election, Hoffman couldn’t say how the council members’ decisions on Hines will impact future endorsements.
“I think that this development may be the breaking point for Santa Monica though,” she said. “And I can predict that it will play a part in the election.”
SMRR’s written opposition to the project revolved largely around the traffic they say it would create. Their most recent platform had a dozen key points. Rent control and affordable housing top the list but traffic is the fourth item.
“This development is also a housing issue and certainly an affordable housing issue,” Hoffman said. “When you have hundreds of units and you’re only planning on making 24 of them available to, in this case, extremely low income people there should be more low-income housing.”
Hines will create 93 total affordable housing units, 24 of which will be available to extremely low-income residents. Other affordable housing units will be available to those who make 150 percent of the area median income.
A rally will be held tonight at 7 p.m. by Residocracy, another group seeking gather petitions for a referendum.
SMRR has not yet developed a response team or a plan for how it will push for the referendum, Hoffman said.