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Backers of Defeated Santa Monica Slow-Growth Measure Blame Development Money, Claim Success
Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark
Roque & Mark Real Estate
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Santa Monica, CA 90404
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Harding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP  law firm
Harding, Larmore
Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

Convention and Visitors Bureau Santa Monica

By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

November 10, 2016 -- Soundly defeated by more than 12 percent of the vote, backers of slow-growth Measure LV blamed a $1.15 million war chest funded by developers and said the vote sent a "strong message" that Santa Monica residents want to slow down development.

With all precincts counted, 56.19 percent of the tally on Tuesday was against Measure LV, or 16,237 votes. The “Yes on LV” campaign garnered 43.81 percent of the final count, or 12,658 votes.

At last count, the anti-LV groups had raised $1.15 million, with much of it earmarked for a final deluge of mailers, media ads and canvassing ("Fundraising for Major Opposition to Santa Monica’s LUVE Measure Tops $1.1 Million," October 28, 2016).

LV raised about $60,000, using much of it for last-minute literature drops and ads in news outlets.

Leaders of for Residocracy, the residents' group behind the measure, did not return requests by The Lookout for comment.

But in a message posted on the the group's Facebook page, its leader did not sound ready to give up.

“We were outspent 16 to 1 and yet we still managed to get 44% of the vote,” said Armen Melkonians, who co-wrote the initiative. “This is an amazing success for our grassroots movement and every one who played a part should be proud of this outcome.”

He told his all-volunteer troops that their “work did not go to waste.”

“I am optimistic that against these odds, our relative success still sent a strong message to City Hall that residents want to slow down development and protect Santa Monica's low-rise character,” Melkonians wrote.

Melkonians also ran for City Council but finished fifth -- more tha 4,000 votes short of taking one of four open seats. Those seats were all filled by incumbents.

Measure LV sought to give city voters -- not the City Council or Planning Commission -- the final decision on most new developments taller than 32 feet, which is nearly all the building proposals in the City’s 3.8 million square foot development pipeline ("Nearly 3.8 Million Square Feet Await Approval in Santa Monica's Jammed Development Pipeline," November 3, 2016).

LV’s base of support were Santa Monica’s neighborhood associations and others in the slow-growth movement who say the city is already too congested and losing what is left of its distinctly Southern California beach city charm.

Santa Monica Forward, one of two groups opposing LV, issued a statement Wednesday calling on residents to "work together" to tackle pressing issues.

"The residents have spoken and decisively said no to Measure LV,” the statement said. “Now, we can get back to working together as a community to find real solutions to the very real challenges that face our city.”

Leaders for Housing and Opportunity for a Modern Economy (HOME), the other group that opposed LV, said Tuesday's vote sent a strong signal that Santa Monica residents are concerned with the City's housing shortage.

"Santa Monicans feel very strongly that you need affordable and market-rate housing," HOME spokesman Jay Trisler told the Lookout Wednesday. "I think people realize LV had numerous flaws in it.

"This is about housing for us, because we represent people who build and finance homes," Trisler said. "We've been very clear from the get-go who we were, and I don't think we've wavered. We've been consistent with this message throughout the campaign."

Measure LV represented the most aggressive local effort to combat development and related traffic since Proposition T in 2008, which sought an annual cap on most commercial development of 75,000 square feet for 15 years.

Proposition T lost by about 10 percentage points, with opponents largely funded by developers outspending supporters seven to one.

The City’s political and civic leaders opposed the proposition, as they did Measure LV. Support in both cases relied heavily on neighborhood groups and activists.

Jorge Casuso contributed to this report.

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