Santa Monica's famous opposition to tall, dense buildings is well-known, but an initiative that could be on the city's ballot in November hits a new low. Pun intended. The initiative, called Land Use Voter Empowerment, comes from the NIMBY supergroup Residocracy and would require "nearly all new projects taller than 32 feet to be approved by a popular vote," says Santa Monica Next.
The rationale is pretty clear: the good people of Santa Monica should have to agree that they want a big new project, except "big" here is defined as 32 feet tall. But the projected repercussions of these draconian building rules have councilmembers—ones who've seen eye to eye with Residocracy on other development-related issues—speaking out against the LUVE ballot measure.
For starters, a vote on every single project over 32 feet would mean tons of additional campaigns each year in the city—a pricey process that "would be cost-prohibitive to all but only the wealthiest developers."
Councilmember Kevin McKeown, who supported a Residocracy initiative related to commercial development, also says that putting so many projects to what will likely be a low-turnout public vote would just be a money dump for rich developers. "We need housing, and we don’t need more developer influence on our politics." He also noted that the initiative discourages all development in SaMo, including much-needed housing.
The initiative would also have a serious effect on any projects that are approved via public vote. Councilmember Terry O'Day says LUVE "would increase the cost of housing and services, increase city red tape and costs, thwart neighborhood improvements and impede environmental sustainability efforts."
Regardless, it's likely that the initiative will end up on the ballot anyway. Residocracy has 180 days to get about 6,100 signatures from registered voters—a "relatively low" barrier to entry, says SMN. But that doesn't mean it will pass. Back in 2008, the group got another item on the ballot that was aimed at limiting commercial growth. That was opposed by 56 percent of Santa Monicans.