Two years after a contentious election concerning citizen initiative Measure LV, the City Council hopes to quell community concerns over development once and for all with its own ballot measure this fall. The measure to require a supermajority vote to amend the city’s land use plans narrowly passed Tuesday with a 4-2 vote.
Now, it’s up to the voters to decide whether to pass it when they go to the polls Nov. 6.
“A supermajority will cause developers to up their ante,” said Councilmember Sue Himmelrich before voting for the measure. “When a project is a good project, it goes unanimously and we don’t have the ill will and acrimony over it.”
The supermajority requirement would not apply to development agreements for individual projects, discussions which have produced the most community controversy in the past. Rather it restricts the ability of future Councils to increase height and density allowances in the Land Use and Circulation Element and Downtown Community Plan.
“It’s not about individual projects, it’s about our land use standards going forward,” Mayor Ted Winterer said. If adopted, the measure will expire Nov. 6, 2028.
The measure has an exemption for affordable housing and the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District, which has considered an expansion of the DoubleTree Hotel to supplement other revenue sources. The measure requires all eligible Councilmembers to be present for the votes.
Mayor Pro-Tempore Gleam Davis and Councilmember Terry O’Day were vocal in their opposition to the measure, with O’Day calling it a “nonsensical election-year political manipulation.”
“I think the circus is coming to town and again here is the sideshow for development fighting during the election season,” O’Day said.
Davis criticized the supermajority requirement as undemocratic.
“The premise of this supermajority provision is if something is a really good idea it will get five votes,” Davis said. “This isn’t getting five votes tonight.”
The Downtown Community Plan (DCP) was adopted in 2017 to allow streamlined approval for housing projects up to 75,000 square feet, with larger projects needing a development review permit or development agreement from the Planning Commission. Projects up to 90,000 square feet are allowed along Colorado Avenue to encourage density along the Expo Line.
Councilmember Pam O’Connor was absent for the vote. She will be up for re-election this year if she decides to run again, along with Councilmember Kevin McKeown and Sue Himmelrich.