Signature gathering to place the LUVE (Land Use Voter Empowerment) ballot initiative before Santa Monica voters in November kicked off yesterday at a rally at the Robert Berman Gallery in the Bergamot Station Arts Center.

The initiative empowers residents to take control of major land use decisions in Santa Monica by imposing more conservative height and density limits citywide as well as have a direct say on the shape and scope of new developments within City borders.

Neighborhood leaders, resident advocates and slow-growth activists say their voices have not been heard and that City Hall is ignoring their concerns about future development in Santa Monica. The grass roots group Residocracy which was formed a couple of years ago to stop the Bergamot Transit Village mega-development in the Mid-city is behind the ballot measure.

LUVE seeks to amend the 2010 Land Use and Circulation Element (LUCE) of the City’s General Plan and its zoning codes “to establish a majority vote requirement for approval of major developments and significant modifications to the City’s land use planning documents.”

Last year, the City’s zoning ordinances were updated and revised to more closely align with land use objectives defined by the LUCE. Residents objected to many of the code changes because they encouraged more, larger and denser developments citywide and benefitted business and developer interests far more than resident interests.

According to Residocracy’s “Notice of intent to circulate petition”, “The LUCE states that its aim is to ‘maintain our City’s character’ and ‘protect our neighborhoods.’ Instead, it has opened the flood gates to developers by allowing larger development projects with a three-tiered system. Above the Tier 1 base height of 32 feet, increased height and density are permitted in exchange for so-called ‘community benefits’.”

The notice says the result is traffic jams, scarce parking and open skies and ocean breezes being lost to ever taller and larger buildings. Infrastructure and residents are over-stressed while long-term residents and small businesses are being displaced. Santa becoming an increasingly unattractive and unpleasant community as a direct result of City Hall’s planning and development policies.

The LUVE initiative “will require “Major Development Review Permits” for most projects that exceed the Tier 1 base height. After going through the City approval process, these Major Development Review Permit projects will then be required to be placed on the ballot for voter approval.”

Santa Monica voters will decide if “community benefits” such as more “affordable” housing, landscaping and bicycle infrastructure improvements will outweigh the impacts that major developments with their increased height and density will have on our quality of life.

LUVE will also require voter approval for major changes in land use policy.  The electorate — not politicians and bureaucrats in the pocket of developers – will determine how much growth is right for Santa Monica.

6,500 plus valid Santa Monica registered voter signatures are required to qualify it for the ballot.  If the measure is approved by the majority of voters in the November election it becomes law and the people not the special interests will control Santa Monica’s future.

LUVE ballot petitions are in circulation. Over the next few weeks, if someone asks you to endorse the LUVE initiative, ask “Where do I sign?”

Once LUVE qualifies for the ballot, you can bet the family Buick that developers and special interests will be amassing a war chest to defeat this measure which is similar to 2008’s RIFT – Residents Initiative to Fight Traffic – (Measure T) created by the Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City (SMCLC) to fight the ever worsening traffic by limiting commercial development.

Developers, their land use attorneys, lobbyists, public relations flacks and their cronies raised over $800,000 to lead the charge against the underfunded measure – a record amount of money for/or against a ballot measure at the time. After a dishonest and misleading campaign mounted by T’s opposition Save Our City, the measure was defeated at the polls with 56.5 of the voters opposing it.

Save Our City was co-chaired by current City Councilman Terry O’Day (whose term on the dais expires at the end of this year) and Judy Abdo who was recently dropped from the Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights powerful Steering Committee for campaigning for a non-SMRR endorsed City Council candidate (Pam O’Connor) in the 2014 election.  No word on whether O’Day is planning to run for re-election.

Homeless levels remain flat

The results are in. The City of Santa Monica Homeless Count of January 27, 2016 showed the number of “homeless” in Santa Monica as holding steady.  The 2016 count found 728 total homeless individuals, down from 738 in 2015 or a one percent decline at the time of the count.

Those on the street climbed three percent to 416 individuals this year as opposed to 402 last year.  312 people were also counted in shelters, jails and hospitals and – down seven percent from 2015. 56 percent receive services from one or more local agencies

30 percent said they had been here less than a year and 25 percent disclosed they had been here “less than one month.”

The annual count is a valuable tool for updating the City’s “Action Plan to address homelessness” which seeks solutions for ending homelessness in the City through a wide range of programs and policies. This current, transitory population will present new and different challenges than the more entrenched homeless population of previous years did.

Bill can be reached at mr.bilbau@gmail.com.