No On T Campaign Aims to Confuse

By Peter Donald

It’s time to vote and, as is often the case, the truth seems to suffer in the process. Measure T, the Santa Monica limited growth initiative, has produced a blizzard of spin. That the No On T campaign is mainly underwritten by development interests such as Equity Office Properties of Chicago to the tune of almost $750,000 (witness the plethora of slick mailers) should alert any Santa Monica resident to the possibility of self-interest on the part of the initiative’s opponents.

It is truly a mystery to this writer as to why so many city officials, most of whom have been advocates for our neighborhoods, are endorsing this irresponsible reaction to a strict but not unreasonable measure endorsed by more than 10,000 residents. The education community seems to have been stampeded by distortions such as those cited below. The No On T supporters who are residents and have developer ties have an understandable interest, as conflicted as that may be. The large out-of-town development companies trying to defeat the measure have an obvious and non-conflicted interest, but their interests are not ours. Santa Monica residents have been playing host to their business enterprises and suffering the consequences of over-development for a long time. We need to slow down – not cease – commercial development for a few years and give the city a chance to thoughtfully plan its future.

In the October 24th issue of The Santa Monica Daily Press, a piece by Terry O’Day and Judy Abdo gives a rationale for voting against Prop T, but it is filled with contradictions, half-truths and outright lies.

Among other troubling quotes, O’Day/Abdo state that

A.)“the only expert traffic study of T concludes that it will have virtually no impact on Santa Monica traffic.”

What study? Who did it? What was its methodology? The No On T group has not produced any evidence of a credible counter argument to date. Furthermore, it seems counterintuitive that less commercial development will have no affect on reducing traffic volume.

.)“the city’s new LUCE incorporates strict controls on development, including a braking mechanism unanimously supported by the City Council that will regulate the pace and amount of new development.”

The updated LUCE is still on the drawing boards and the 1984 version has vastly exceeded its development targets. Prop T in no way interferes with LUCE’s goals, but does cap development footage for a fixed period of time.

O’Day and Abdo go on to say that:

C.) “Proposition T also restricts new health-care uses,” and “T also classifies nonprofit uses — including those serving our youth, senior citizens and the disabled — as “commercial,” which explains why it is opposed by key non-profit leaders”

Section 1.1.2 A of the initiative clearly exempts from its purview “residential, parking, schools, child or adult day care facilities, hospitals, rest homes, residential care facilities for the elderly, places of worship, government facilities, or neighborhood-serving goods, services or retail uses located on the ground floor of an affordable housing development….”.

O’Day and Abdo have not read the text or are attempting blatant obfuscation.

D.) “T will harm renters as well, especially vulnerable seniors.” and “And T would impede the city’s strategy of building workforce housing (with resident-serving commercial uses) in its commercial zones — housing for those who work in Santa Monica but are not now able to live here.”

This is pure speculation. There is no causal relationship that I know of in which the absence of commercial development promotes, ipso facto, residential development, unless there are specific policy inducements to do so. Prop T contains no such inducements and, further, doesn’t restrain the city from developing additional affordable rental housing.

In addition, the second sentence in this quote seems to contradict the first, i.e., why would Prop T impede building workforce housing if its de facto purpose is to encourage residential housing?

E.) “According to an independent financial study, T would deprive City Hall of millions of dollars in tax revenue that we need to fund our schools and other important services.”

This, once again, begs the question(s): What study? Who did it? What was its methodology? As far as I know, the state primarily funds public education, and city revenue is a tiny part of the school system’s budget. In the absence of any credible evidence to the contrary, the most reliable analysis of this topic is provided by the City.

F.) “In addition to these major flaws, T suffers from being poorly drafted and rigidly inflexible.”

The initiative does have teeth and its conditions are quite specific. Its “flaws” are the regulation of pell-mell growth. As for poor drafting, the measure was drafted by the law firm of Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger of San Francisco (http://www.smwlaw.com/practice.htm) who specialize in public law and drafting initiatives statewide.

Again, why all the hue and cry? The measure is simply proposing to slow down the pace of development for a relatively short period of time, so that Santa Monica can catch its breath and plan for the future sensibly. Our quality of life is being sold out by the opponents of Prop T. It should be adopted.

Peter Donald
Santa Monica Resident for 35 years
Founding member of The Friends of Sunset Park
Santa Monica Airport Commissioner

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One thought on “No On T Campaign Aims to Confuse”

  1. Dear Mr. Donald,

    Thank you for your insight as to why Prop T is a viable regulatory measure for helping to reduce traffic in Santa Monica. While I am not a resident of the city, I am a proponent of initiatives that promote sustainable civic practices. In reviewing arguments put forth by supporters and opponents of the proposition, I am able to see why the topic is so divisive. With over 10,000 signatures and support from several prominent city council members, it appears that Prop T enjoys a major backing by its residents. However, I ponder the process used by proponents to substantiate advocacy of the proposal by the public. It seems to me that as is true for most political issues, the methods for garnering support can be suspect. A good deal of those cited to be in favor of Prop T may not have ever fully understood both sides of the issue at hand, instead opting to initial their approval of something they were told would be an instrument to effectively reduce traffic in Santa Monica. I tend to agree with your logic that “it seems counterintuitive that less commercial development will have no affect on reducing traffic volume.” However, while this may in fact be true, do you think that this initiative is one that adeptly addresses the identified issue? In my analysis, I only see that it only slows down the impending rate of traffic entering the city. Because of Santa Monica’s beauty and the myriad of activities it offers, it will always be a destination for tourists and individuals from the surrounding Los Angeles area. Thus, I find that Prop T would not be a viable solution in helping to reduce the basic contributors of congestion ills. Instead, it would behoove Santa Monicans to support initiatives providing incentive for locals to utilize alternative means of transportation. Furthermore, members of the community could vote in favor of building infrastructure including public transportation that would support the city’s evolution into a more transit-friendly community. Thus while I understand why you support Prop T, I see it as a measure concerning not the issue of traffic, but one that asks its residents whether or not they are fundamentally opposed to further development in their area.

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