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'Super-Majority' Ballot Measure Would Have No Impact on Proposed Developments


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By Jorge Casuso

June 21, 2018 -- A proposed ballot measure to require a "super-majority" vote by the City Council for developments that exceed zoning limits will have no impact on projects currently in the planning pipeline, according to City planning officials.

The measure is expected to help quell the fear of over-development by slow-growth constituents, many of whom oppose three major projects slated for Downtown.

Staff initially recommended that the Council not place a measure on the ballot requiring five votes for affected developments ("Staff Recommends Santa Monica Council Scrap Idea of Development Ballot Measure," May 7, 2018).

The Council will take up the proposed measure at its meeting Tuesday night.

In its report to the Council released Thursday, staff said the three Downtown developments "would not require a super-majority vote of Council because they would not require an amendment to the DCP" or Downtown Community Plan.

The plan, approved last July, allows developments as tall as 130 feet on three designated sites ("Santa Monica Council Sets Highest Affordable Housing Requirement in State for Downtown," July 27, 2017).

Zoning for the sites exceeds the standards set for the rest of the City under the Land Use and Circulation Element (LUCE) amended in 2015 and the zoning code to implement it.

Councilmember Kevin McKeown, who made the motion to draft the proposed ballot initiative, said the measure before the Council sends a strong message.

“The measure is envisioned to assure our community that a bare 4-3 Council vote cannot override the work we all did together over the past eight years in agreeing on the LUCE and the zoning code," McKeown wrote in an emal to The Lookout.

"The fundamental premise is that we have a plan, and we will Stick To Our Plan (S.T.O.P.) -- no more surprises," he wrote.

"The three large downtown projects have already had height and FAR limits set as part of the Downtown Community Plan, so this ballot measure won’t retroactively modify their Council approval process unless they try to go beyond those set limits, but because they’ll be Development Agreements, they’re still subject to resident referendum."

Slow-growth activists said they were disappointed with the proposed measure.

"It's a bait and switch to get voters to think they are being responsive, said Armen Melkonians, who heads, an online slow-growth group.

"It's a weak way out to gain support from their current supporters, which are developers," he said. "Obviously, it's a political move."

Melkonians said Residocracy is still considering placing referendums to stop the major Downtown developments ("Santa Monica Slow-Growth Leader Vows Referendums on Major Downtown Projects," September 26, 2017).

The ballot measure -- a Charter Amendment that would be in effect for ten years -- would require a super-majority vote for changes to the LUCE and zoning code.

However, it would have no impact on a proposed development in the Bergamot Area, staff said in its report.

It also would likely not affect future developments guided by the Hospital Area Specific Plan (HASP) and the Civic Center Specific Plan (CCSP), according to staff.

In addition, amendments that allow additional height or density for 100 percent affordable housing projects "could be approved with a simple majority Council vote," staff wrote.

The Memorial Park Neighborhood and the Santa Monica Business Park at the Airport could require super-majority votes if their plans increase the current height and density limits, staff said.


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