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Santa Monica Coalition Pauses Political Activities

Bob Kronovetrealty
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Santa Monica Convention and Visitors

By Jorge Casuso

February 13, 2019 -- The Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City (SMCLC) -- which helped usher in a slow-growth movement more than a decade ago -- has terminated its political action committee.

In its terminating campaign disclosure statement filed December 27, the group reported spending $4,306 on the November 6 race for three Council seats.

The Coalition, which only endorsed incumbent Sue Himmelrich, is waiting to see what future Santa Monica elections might hold, said its founder Diana Gordon ("Santa Monica Slow-Growth Group Endorses One Council Candidate," October 30, 2018).

"We'll reactivate the PAC when we have a candidate or candidates that we want to support for the Council," said Gordon, who heads the 14-year-old group.

"We didn't really use it in the last election, and I think we're going to wait and see what's going on in the next election," she said, noting the ongoing voting rights lawsuit between the City and Latino plaintiffs over district elections.

"By then we hope to have some candidates other than Sue that we can fervently support," Gordon said.

Last November marked the first time the Coalition failed to back incumbent Kevin McKeown, who was endorsed by the group in 2006, 2010 and 2014.

McKeown opposed Measure LV, a slow-growth initiative backed by the Coalition that was defeated at the polls in 2016, and was endorsed last year by Santa Monica Forward, a group largely bankrolled by developers.

Launched in 2005 to stop the proposed redevelopment of Santa Monica Place, the Coalition has been a political influence in Santa Monica, although it typically spends less than $15,000 on political campaigns ("Mall Owners Seek to Put Redevelopment Plans on Hold," August 11, 2005).

Its biggest foe was former mayor Pam O'Connor, a candidate the group spent more than a decade trying to unseat before she failed to win a record seventh term in November.

Over the years, the Coalition used its PAC to hit O'Connor -- a staunch advocate of public transit and housing concentrated near transit stops -- with a barrage of negative mailers that painted her, along with Councilmember Terry O'Day, as having sold out to developers.

And it bolstered the campaigns of slow growth candidates such as McKeown, Himmelrich and Councilmember Ted Winterer, who helped draft the 2008 "RIFT" initiative sponsored by the Coalition. It also backed Planning Commissioner Richard McKinnon.

In addition to its campaign activities, SMCLC is a local political watchdog that uses Freedom of Information Act (POIA) requests to expose how the City sometimes fails to follow its own campaigns.

In 2016 the Coalition found that municipal employees were abusing the City's own campaign to limit driving and parking downtown ("Activist Group Finds City of Santa Monica Abuses Own Campaign Limiting Driving and Parking Downtown," January 27, 2016).

Last year, the group issued a report that found that two-thirds of City employees drove alone to work during peak hours and fewer than 15 percent came by bus, bicycle or Expo ("Santa Monica's Mobility Plan Isn't Working, Development Watchdog Group Contends," October 10, 2018).

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