BY MATTHEW HALL
The decisions before City Council at their Dec. 6 meeting are as important as ever, but a pair of requests from Councilman Kevin McKeown are as, if not more, significant than any of the regularly scheduled action items.
Both requests for discussion focus on development with the first targeting a potential alternative to the failed LUVE Initiative and the second requesting a response to recent information about the owner of a local development company.
McKeown and Councilwoman Gleam Davis have scheduled a discussion item to ask staff “to explore the procedural steps necessary to establish voter approval requirements for development exceeding the general plan, the adopted zoning code, or some other specified threshold, and/or require a super-majority Council vote on projects exceeding specified parameters, and return to Council and the community with information for possible future actions, including policy changes, resolutions, ordinances, and Council-initiated ballot measures.”
Measure LV, also known as the LUVE Initiative proposed requiring a public vote for most development projects. Voters rejected the measure in the November election but several Councilmembers had floated the idea of an alternative proposal prior to this year’s election. Council did not mount its own effort this year but several members have said the conversation should continue and hopefully generate a better proposal.
McKeown said he is a long-time slow-growth individual but he couldn’t support Measure LV as he felt it was too extreme. However, he did hear loud and clear the concerns of residents.
“I think we have a window of opportunity here to reframe the discussion over development,” he said. “We still have months of work to do on the Downtown Community Plan, which is already well underway. Opening a concurrent conversation exploring options for modifying development approval processes will show that the Council has a vision moving forward to acknowledge the concerns expressed in this recently concluded election. With Tuesday’s Council item, I’ve tried to craft something that conveys that intent, while remaining open to lots of potential options and respecting the need for a long community conversation before the intent solidifies into specific action.”
Davis said the discussion acknowledges the importance of community input.
“I view this item simply as a way to get the conversation started,” she said. “As I said when discussing Measure LV, I have serious doubts about the implications for housing and gentrification of establishing new processes for approval of certain types of development. I don’t really have a particular proposal in mind. However, I think we need to seek to re-establish public trust in the process and part of that is having a rational and widespread community discussion about whether we need to change the process.”
McKeown has also partnered with Councilwoman Sue Himmelrich for a discussion of city business with Neil Shekhter.
According to the Los Angeles Business Journal, a judge recently ruled Shekhter had forged documents related to an ongoing lawsuit with investors.
According to the agenda the request directs staff “to review all existing and pending agreements with Neil Shekhter, NMS, and associated entities, verifying information provided as part of such agreements, and attempting to ensure that the municipal corporation, residents/taxpayers, and occupants of NMS buildings are fully protected from possible misstatements and their consequences.”
McKeown said City Hall has a responsibility to investigate its dealings with Shekhter and to protect potentially at risk renters.
“The rather remarkable court document, detailing what the judge saw as willful misinformation, makes it only prudent for the City, on behalf of its residents, to verify representations made by NMS in various dealings with Santa Monica, both concluded and pending,” he said. “My greatest immediate concerns are the stability and welfare of residents living in the NMS buildings which the court action appears to cede to new owners, and where the management transition could make renters collateral damage in corporate battles.”
Discussion items are scheduled for the end of the regular calendar. Council will meet on Dec. 6 beginning at 4:30 p.m. in City Hall, 1685 Main St.