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

Ignore The Push Polls: Santa Monica measure LV Isn't Complicated

Measure LV requires new construction which does not conform to current zoning regulations to go to a public vote in order to get approval. It also requires voter approval for "major amendments" to the current zoning ordinance.


October 24, 2016

Measure LV requires new construction which does not conform to current zoning regulations to go to a public vote in order to get approval. It also requires voter approval for "major amendments" to the current zoning ordinance. ​

What is Measure LV?

​A great deal of information is being distributed regarding local measure LV, much of it via "push polls" over the telephone. A push poll is when the 'researcher' claims to be asking for your opinion but it is actually giving you an opinion. Much of this information is actually misinformation. Some of it is so inaccurate that it is the exact opposite of the truth.

​Here's the truth.

​It's not complicated.

​Measure LV requires new construction which does not conform to current zoning regulations to go to a public vote in order to get approval. It also requires voter approval for "major amendments" to the current zoning ordinance.

​As it stands now, if a building project goes beyond the size restrictions of our current zoning code, developers can ask the city council for permission to violate the zoning and build bigger. The council almost always grants these requests, which are called "developer agreements." Always the developer pays money to get this. Often the developer must also provide some 'public benefit,' such as public art (also know as 'the turd in the plaza') or some affordable housing units. Historically, the city has not enforced the actual granting of affordable housing within the large developments, and they are simply sold at market rate. Currently, this process of granting developer agreements has become so common that the city has created a streamlined process by which to dole them out.

​Measure LV would replace the city council's permission for a developer to build beyond the zoning (sometimes greatly beyond) with a public vote on the desire for the large project. That means that instead of requiring the approval of only 7 people, a majority of the council, a developer would require a majority of the voting residents in the city to agree that the project is worthwhile and should be allowed to violate our zoning ordinances.

​The voting would occur either in a general or a special election.

​By no means would every new construction need to go to a vote. Every building which stays within current zoning regulations would be able to proceed with its development and construction as currently occurs. Other exemptions would include existing buildings that have suffered damage by fire, earthquake or other disasters, public service buildings, and true, one-hundred-percent affordable housing projects.

Why is Measure LV necessary when we elected city council members to enforce our zoning ordinance?

​There are two main reasons.

​1. Our city council has exhibited a blatant lack of regard for the welfare of the people who reside in this city. The pace at which developer agreements are being handed out bears no relationship to the pace at which the stress on the city's traffic, parking, water, and energy needs are increasing. Judging by the behavior of our elected leaders, it's as if none of these problems are occurring - or increasing. Every new square foot added to either residential or commercial use brings more car trips, more demand for water and energy, and more density with less light and air. While residents of Santa Monica are being asked to conserve water and rip out lawns, new developments are being approved that will create additional use of the limited amount of water available. Frankly, it's unconscionable.

​You may well ask why our city leaders would do this. It's because our city carries a heavy burden of paid staff. Highly paid staff, many of them among the highest paid in the country. 105 employees of the city of Santa Monica make $300,000 or more per year in salary. And all of these people are eventually going to retire and will collect very nice pensions. Instead of paring down on the expense of all of these excellent, but highly-paid, individuals, the elected leaders of this city are grasping for the money developers will pay and the taxes to be collected from large new development, without any regard for the effects on the residents (as opposed to the paid staff) of the city.

​It should also be noted that, unfortunately, some of the people sitting on the city council today take money directly from developers. This is not necessarily illegal, since a developer can 'retire' a campaign debt after the fact. But it does not give one a sense that such officials are operating without some conflict of interest. Neither is it pleasant to remember that our last city manager, Rod Gould, violated local law by taking a job with one of the developers for whom he'd recently made recommendations to the city council. Our city attorney, Marsha Moutrie, declined to prosecute him because he was her friend.

​None of this inspires a great deal of trust in local politicians or paid staff.

​2. It is perfectly reasonable for the local populace to be involved directly in approving land use rather than relying on elected representatives. Although the United States, as a country, is a republic, with elected leaders who make decisions on the behalf of the populace, this relates to the country as a whole, not to local entities such as cities.

‪ ​In the oldest running democracy in the world (Switzerland), decisions (especially building and community planning) are almost entirely made by public vote. Switzerland has more ballots than any other country. (And few people would argue that it is not a very well run country). ‬

​The Founders of our country never, ever intended strictly representative democracy for local communities -- on the contrary. Historically, local communities were much more free than today when it came to determining their future.‬ In the past, local communities (especially in the West) have always made local decisions, and plenty of them by popular vote. Citizens in many communities even voted for who should be teachers, town marshals, municipal judges, and almost all large town projects required major public involvement and balloting.‬

​It is important to note that Measure LV is a grassroots campaign without any paid staff and very little money. The campaign supporters are all volunteers. That's why you don't hear as much from them as you do from the opposition, which has paid staff and a budget of over $1 million paid by developers and real estate investors.‬

​The LUVE web site is very good and also has answers to the commonly propagated falsehoods put out by opponents. (Check the "truth and lies" section).‬



Reader Comments

Henry232323 writes:

Thank you for this informative article. We are so sick of how 'unlivable' Santa Monica has become and our city government doesn't seem to care.


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