Yesterday here in the Daily Press I explained why I’m asking you to vote against Measure LV on November’s ballot. As your long-time slow-growth Councilmember, I wouldn’t ask that if I couldn’t suggest a better idea.
Certainly I share LV advocates’ concern about traffic and over-development — but Measure LV is too extreme and full of unintended consequences.
Let’s get clear on what we fear. Almost every image proponents of Measure LV use to illustrate over-development shows a Development Agreement project. A Development Agreement, or DA, permits construction that goes beyond Santa Monica’s zoning code. Generally, that means big and intrusive, probably causing significant traffic impacts.
Right now, DAs can secure final approval by four votes out of the seven Councilmembers. The Village Trailer Park and Hines projects squeaked by several years ago with that bare four-to-three majority, despite efforts of us slow-growthers on the Council. Since then, but too late for those projects, we slow-growthers have become the majority.
I have voted against more Development Agreements than any other Councilmember in Santa Monica history. Yes, there have been some worthwhile DAs, such as St. Monica’s, and the Crossroads School science building, that I have gladly supported — but the bad ones keep on coming.
Might we be better off if we disallowed DAs completely? Maybe, but we’d miss out on those few really worthy projects, and that would be a shame. What if instead, we put anything beyond our zoning code — any Development Agreement approved by the Council — to a vote of residents, as a safeguard against over-development?
Wouldn’t that make more sense than putting almost everything above 32 feet tall before the voters, as Measure LV proposes?
Measure LV’s limit of 32 feet citywide just doesn’t make sense, and the unintended consequences I described yesterday make Measure LV risky and reckless.
Putting DAs to a popular vote, in contrast, would restrain over-development while honoring the decade-plus of community participation in shaping our zoning code, allowing reasonable housing, and avoiding obstacles to post-disaster reconstruction.
Measure LV requires voter deliberation on too many small projects. We should spend less time consumed with fear of what we don’t want, and more time envisioning what we want Santa Monica to be.
We Santa Monicans rightly prize our highly livable residential neighborhoods. Measure LV would jeopardize the ability of our established neighborhoods to decide their own futures. Neighborhood plans like the Pico Neighborhood Plan, the Memorial Park Plan, and maybe even the Lincoln Boulevard Plan, would have to wait to survive a citywide election, with many voters not familiar with your neighborhood’s local issues and preferences.
Climate change is real. Santa Monica is a leader on environmental issues and sustainability. Measure LV could reverse that. The Sierra Club and the Los Angeles League of Conservation Voters have endorsed against Measure LV, because it will discourage housing near mass transit.
Measure LV, promoted as anti-traffic, but in reality anti-housing, could paradoxically make traffic worse, as workers coming to Santa Monica jobs are forced to drive into town through our neighborhoods.
A Measure LV co-author asserted at a recent City Council hearing, “We don’t need additional housing.” Apparently that’s not an unintended consequence of LV — it’s deliberate!
Over the forty years I’ve lived here, Santa Monica has been unable to produce enough new housing to keep up with our residents’ own birthrate.
Deliberately continuing to keep housing scarce not only leaves working families struggling to survive, but means our own Santa Monica children are growing up to find there’s nowhere for them to live as adults in their own hometown.
Making sure new housing doesn’t displace existing residents is exactly what our zoning code is designed to do. Measure LV, on the other hand, would slam the door shut.
As Santa Monicans, we should pause and consider what Measure LV would do to our community values — values like protecting low-income households and welcoming working families.
That particularly troubles local clergy (Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice, CLUE), who oppose Measure LV as it undermines social justice.
As Santa Monicans, we have to vote for our principles, not over-react to rhetoric. Traffic is a problem, but we can work together on real solutions without sacrificing our community values.
My suggested alternative to Measure LV, resident voting on Development Agreements, is simple, reasonable, and sensible.
Measure LV is too extreme, and full of unintended consequences.
Please join me in voting no on Measure LV.
By Kevin McKeown
Kevin McKeown is a member of the Santa Monica City Council