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Longtime Santa Monica Activist Who Helped Preserve Coastal Skyline Dead at 79

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Editor's note: A previous version of this article stated that Julie Lopez Dad was 81 when she died. She was 79.

By Jorge Casuso

June 20, 2023 -- Julie Lopez Dad -- a slow-growth tenant activist known for her commitment, intelligence and kindness -- died Saturday at age 79 in her Ocean Park apartment. The cause of death has not been determined.

For nearly 40 years, Dad was a leading force in Santa Monica politics, both behind the scenes and on the dais, fighting to stifle major developments that would have dramatically changed the city's skyline.

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She served on Santa Monica's two most powerful commissions and was a major player in the local Democratic Party -- both as president of the local Democratic Club and as a delegate to the LA County Democratic Party Central Committee.

“Julie left a legacy of service to Santa Monica, serving both as a Rent Control Commissioner and Planning Commissioner," said former City Attorney Bob Myers.

"She was both smart and kind, caring deeply about improving the quality of life of everyone.”

Former Mayor Denny Zane called her "an amazing community member and community activist" and "a great grassroots leader."

"She was devoted to renters' rights and affordable housing and slow-growth policies and protecting the character of Santa Monica," Zane said.

"Julie was a kind of intermediary who was always working to help reconcile differences and find common ground."

Dad was appointed to the Rent Control Board in January 1988 but held the post for less than two years, resigning in August 1989 to return to community activism.

She served as president of the Santa Monica Democratic Club from 1998 to 2008 and was elected as a delegate to the party's Los Angeles County Central Committee in 1999, serving until 2009.

Behind the scenes, she helped spearhead Prop S, a successful 1992 ballot initiative to stop hotel development along the coast that threatened to turn Santa Monica into Miami Beach.

"I remember walking out of City Hall (with Dad) one night and saying, 'These guys aren't going to stop,'" said Sharon Gilpen, who along with Dad and three other women led the initiative drive.

"Julie was a very gracious and intelligent woman who was a straight shooter in politics," said Gilpin, a political campaign manager who has remained involved in local politics.

"I loved walking on the beach with her and talking about the city," she said. "She was really involved in everything."

As a member of the City's Planning Commission from 2000 to 2008, Dad was part of a slow-growth majority that tried to stem the flood of proposed developments.

This included a failed plan to redevelop Santa Monica Place mall into a mixed-use development topped with 22-story condo towers.

A longtime Ocean Park resident, Dad served on the board of the Ocean Park Community Organization from 1984 and 1990 and fought for decades to preserve the character of Main Street.

"She was a champion of Main Street," said Ralph Mechur, an architect and civic leader. “She was committed to a better community and worked hard on social justice issues.

“She was a lovely person and a good friend,” Mechur said. “She was a great asset to the community.”

According to her family, Dad's mother was from Mexico and her father from Pakistan. They met as farm workers in California's Central Valley.

An Arizona State University graduate majoring in political science, Dad worked as operations manager for MDB capital group from 1996 to 2007.

Zane said he lost track of Dad in recent years. "There was a moment in time when she dropped out of political work," he said.

Like many who knew her, Zane learned of Dad's death through Santa Monica's political circles. "This was sad news," he said.

According to her family, Dad was single and very close to her nieces and family members.

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