Santa Monica Observer - Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words

Referendum Petition a Success


On Tuesday members of Residocracy, a local activist group, submitted 13,400 signatures to City Hall on a referendum petition opposing the development of the 767,000 square foot Bergamot Village Transit project. A month ago the City Council, in a 4-3 vote, approved the massive project, which is expected to generate 7,000 car trips per day. Immediately following the vote, Residocracy began collecting signatures from residents opposing the Council's decision. Ten percent of registered voters opposing a council decision can effectively block the decision or force it onto the ballot for public consideration. 6,500 signatures were necessary. Residocracy gathered twice this number.

The Bergamot Village project was to be developed by the Texas-based Hines development company. Council members in favor of the project, who included Gleam Davis, Pam O'Connor, Terry O'Day, and Bob Holbrook, cited "public benefits" they believed would outweigh the increase in traffic in an already congested area, at 26th and Olympic. A small park, money for a "traffic management association" and some affordable housing were thrown out by Hines as justification for allowing the project, which more than doubled the current building size.

Besides Residocracy, Santa Monicans for Renters' Rights (SMRR) and Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City (SMCLC) opposed the project.

Hines' Bergamot Village project is one of nearly thirty large projects awaiting approval by the City Council. These projects must receive Council approval because they are larger than LUCE limitations, the current zoning regulations. Although the city took 10 years to develop and approve LUCE, the zoning has little teeth since the Council has been generous in granting exemptions, known as Developer Agreements (DAs), in return for certain considerations. These generally include an affordable housing component, but can also involve parks, public art, and other dubious benefits. Historically, the city has not enforced affordable housing agreements. The true value of the projects is in the additional tax revenue they will bring to meet an expanding city employee demand for salaries and pensions.

Santa Monica residents have been vocal in opposing developments that will generate more traffic and competition for parking. Until Tuesday, the City Council has been resistant to heeding such opposition.


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