Armen Melkonians, founder of the Residocracy movement, speaks to a crowd of supporters gathered outside of City Hall. (Daniel Archuleta

Residocracy hosted its kick-off meeting at the Santa Monica library a week ago Sunday. The purpose of the meeting was to organize various committees to work on Residocracy’s Land Use Voter Empowerment (LUVE) ballot measure campaign.

LUVE, if approved in the Nov. 6 election, would amend the city’s Land Use and Circulation Element (LUCE) and zoning ordinance to require voter approval of certain types of new development projects.

This measure would amend the city’s LUCE and zoning ordinance by adding new requirements for voter approval of large or “major” developments, all development agreements, and certain modifications to land use and planning policy documents.

The measure would also create a new permitting requirement and process.  A “Major Development Review Permit” would be required for projects exceeding the LUCE’s Tier 1 maximum height (32 feet/two stories) and size limits.

More than 10,000 Santa Monica voter signatures were gathered and submitted by Residocracy volunteers to the Santa Monica City Clerk’s Office on May 5. The Los Angeles County Registrar’s office verified the signatures, and the City Council placed LUVE on the municipal ballot at its July 12 meeting.   

The initiative then goes before the county Board of Supervisors, which will provide the final administrative approval necessary to place LUVE on the ballot and it will receive its official alphabetical ballot designation such as “Measure X.”

I joined fellow Daily Press columnist Charles Andrews to observe the meeting. Fifty invited “volunteers” who helped gather signatures and a couple of self-promoting gatecrashers also attended. It was an excited and enthusiastic crowd. They were especially buoyed by social media chatter an informal surveys that indicate LUVE would coast to victory by a wide margin (if the election were held at that time.)

The polls obviously don’t show how the LUVE campaign will play out in the months to come. It’s expected that developers and related business interests, including land-use attorneys, real estate executives, architects, contractors, publicists, and labor union members will raise millions of dollars for an anti-LUVE war chest.

Money will be spent on every type of campaign material imaginable – similar to the campaign by developers and their cronies to defeat another slow-growth ballot measure, Measure T, known as the “RIFT initiative, in 2008.

People at the library meeting were fired up. If Residocracy’s leadership can maintain this level of enthusiasm through to the election, LUVE will be victorious despite the well-moneyed opposition.

A win in November will have a far reaching and positive impact for the community. LUVE will override the Planning Department, Planning Commission and City Council’s  penchant for approving unpopular, ugly, oversized developments with woefully inadequate community benefits — benefits which are frequently never delivered despite the promises.

It will return control over what our city will be, look like and how it will function to residents by ending behind closed door wheeling and dealing between City Hall and developers.

However there was a huge elephant in the refrigerator and you could smell its breath throughout the entire library: endorsements.

When the subjects of Residocracy endorsing candidates for City Council or fielding a slate of candidates outright came up, Residocracy founder and leader Armen Melkonians made it clear that the meeting was an “organizational meeting” and that the subject would not be discussed there.

Maybe it wasn’t the right time or place; work needed to be done. Residocracy’s leadership needs to study this issue very carefully. One viewpoint says that the group needs to focus on making sure the measure passes. The second take sees Residocracy leaders either endorse or outright sponsor two or three candidates for City Council to assure that their “people first,” “stop over-development” position becomes permanently and positively implemented.

I think the organization should back candidates and announce early endorsements — before the end of the month. Endorsing a couple of candidates in the very near future would give them an advantage in gathering other endorsements and raising funds.

It takes a minimum of $200,000 to mount a competitive council campaign with city-wide mailers eating up lots of assets. Winners will spend double or triple that amount, which is why proper financing and key endorsements are so important

Lack of early endorsements cost Phil Brock a seat at the dais in the 2014 race. He told me that every organization he went to — from labor unions to civic groups — backed away when he told them he had “no major endorsements.”

Most special interests want to back a “winner” and they don’t see minimal endorsements or inadequately funded candidates as likely to win. The same was true when I ran for City Council in 2004 … No key endorsements (What? After the things I’ve written in this column?) and, only a few grand in campaign funds. I finished way out of the money.

Who would I like to see Residocracy get behind? Residocracy founder Armen Melkonians and Recreation and Parks Chair Phil Brock.  If LUVE wins, Residocracy-affiliated candidates will most likely coast to victory on its coat tails.

We can’t afford to pass up any opportunity for residents to take back our City. A couple  of new slow-growth, Residocracy-endorsed councilmembers on council will make it impossible for developer-backed councilpersons to pull any fast ones or play dirty tricks on us as has been so “matter or course” in the past.

Bill Bauer can be reached at