The so-called “Land Use Voter Empowerment” (L.U.V.E.) initiative, which would require a vote on nearly every new building over two stories, has qualified to be on the November ballot, Santa Monica Next has learned.
The initiative, backed by the extreme no-growth group Residocracy, qualified Tuesday after the County Clerk’s office verified that supporters of the initiative had managed to gather at least the minimum number of signatures of registered Santa Monica voters — about 6,500, or 10 percent of all registered voters — required to put the initiative on the ballot.
The City Council will now have to decide whether to put the initiative on the November ballot or to adopt it as an ordinance directly. The latter option is unlikely given that even one-time allies of Residocracy on the Council have denounced the initiative as too extreme.
“The Council can now get expert analysis of the measure’s impacts, which I expect will include increased developer money skewing local politics, as well as suppressed housing production,” said Councilmember Kevin McKeown. “We’re all frustrated by traffic, but once the public is better informed about the Residocracy initiative, I expect support for such an extreme measure to wane. I look forward to a robust discussion about the inclusive community we aspire to be, and how we can deal with traffic and quality of life issues without sacrificing our egalitarian and democratic values.”
McKeown told Santa Monica Next in March during the signature-gathering period that L.U.V.E. initiative “dissuades all kinds of moderate-sized projects, including housing” and that it “also appears to give developers the ability to initiate special elections, where they can pour unlimited corporate financing into local low-turnout balloting. We need housing, and we don’t need more developer influence on our politics.”
The L.U.V.E. initiative exempts housing projects that are 100 percent subsidized affordable, so long as the project has 50 units or fewer, but makes no stipulation about how those projects would be financed.
McKeown is not necessarily opposed to using ballot measures to stop growth. In his March email to Next, he noted his support for Measure T, which would have capped commercial development at 75,000 square feet a year. It was soundly defeated by voters in 2008.
Councilmember Gleam Davis noted that qualifying for the ballot is just the beginning.
“This is just the first step in analyzing the measure and considering what effect it might have on our community,” Davis said, adding that the initiative contained a “tremendous amount of ambiguity.”
While Residocracy has been celebrating its volunteers’ ability to get enough signatures to qualify the initiative for the ballot, there is a difference between signatures on an initiative and votes come election day. Since 2000, there have been eight initiatives that have qualified for the ballot through the signature gathering process, including Measure T.
But of those eight, only two were approved by voters.