An anonymous phone poll is occurring throughout Santa Monica to gauge support for the Land Use Voter Empowerment (LUVE) Initiative and explore potential alternatives to the measure.
LUVE would limit development by requiring voter approval for all development agreements, any development above Tier 1 and any major amendment/update to significant zoning documents. Supporters of the initiative are currently gathering signatures to attempt to qualify LUVE for the November ballot.
No formal opposition has emerged yet but the poll suggests an interest in alternatives to LUVE.
In addition to basic biographical questions, the poll asks if the recipient has heard of the LUVE initiative, if they support it, if they would support an alternative with specific percentages of housing or affordable housing, would they support an alternative with higher height caps or an alternative that required votes only on 100 percent commercial development.
In an unusual move for local polls about ballot initiatives, the questions also ask if the recipient is likely to vote for the council incumbents up for reelection this year (Terry O’Day, Gleam Davis, Ted Winterer and Tony Vazquez).
It also asks for credibility scores for Vazquez, Winterer, Davis, O’Day, City Manager Rick Cole, Judy Abdo, the City Council as a group, Residocracy as an organization and the Hotel Workers Union.
Abdo is the only individual on the list not currently employed by or a part of the City Council. Abdo is a former mayor and co-founder of Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights who maintains active participation in local organizations. She said she was unaware of the poll until contacted by SMDP and said she had no affiliation with it and knew nothing about who paid for it.
Poll recipients were asked to list the biggest issues facing Santa Monica and rank the city’s handling of finances, homelessness, growth and development, traffic and affordable housing.
Residocracy is a non-profit organization that utilizes a website to solicit input on community issues. The organization has been strongly opposed to development and in 2014 was responsible for mounting a voter referendum against what was then known as the Hines Project at the former PaperMate plant. Residocracy founder Armen Melkonians said the poll had not originated with his organization.
He said had not taken the poll himself but said the questions sounded like they biased against LUVE.
Individuals who claimed to know who paid for the poll wouldn’t comment on the record. Several described the poll backers as either “in the development community,” “current housing providers” or “concerned about future development.”
Melkonians said LUVE opponents could be gathering information for an alternative proposal and, if such a proposal were to emerge, it would have to happen quickly to qualify for the November ballot.
Ballot initiatives are filed by individuals and become law if approved by voters. Once filed with the City Clerk, the City has 15 days to return a ballot summary and title for an initiative. At that time, the filers have 180 days to gather signatures to qualify the measure for the November election. To qualify for the ballot, the quantity of signatures must meet or exceed 10 percent of the total number of registered voters, or about 6,500 signatures for Santa Monica.
LUVE backers have received their paperwork and are already gathering signatures.
Melkonians said Residocracy’s grassroots approach made it difficult to measure progress midstream, but initial conversations were promising.
“It sounds like we’re going to hit our targets,” he said.