The Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce’s Board of Directors has decided to oppose the Residents Initiative to Fight Traffic (RIFT).
If RIFT makes it onto the November ballot and is approved by voters, it would reduce annual commercial development in Santa Monica to 75,000 square feet.
In a March 28 Chamber press release, Chair Tom Larmore wrote: “The Chamber took this action based upon its belief that RIFT will not reduce traffic congestion but, instead, risks exacerbating the problem while, at the same time, reducing the City’s ability to attract funding for greatly needed mass transit.” In addition, “RIFT, through its extremely confining development restrictions, would impair the City’s ability to generate workforce housing, negatively affect its strong financial position to the detriment of residents, and hamper needed development, such as that relating to health care.”
An article in the Chamber’s Weekly Update elaborated further on the Chamber’s position. “Santa Monica will continue to be impacted by drive-through traffic from neighboring cities in the future and the initiative has a huge potential to negatively impact our chance of securing the completion of Phase II of the Exposition Light Rail line to downtown Santa Monica and funding for the Subway to the Sea. These and other pro-transit projects, which have been shown to reduce single occupancy vehicle trips, need mixed-use residential development along transit corridors to ensure adequate ridership for federal, state, and county funding qualifications.”
A press release on March 31 from the Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City (SMCLC), the organization that is sponsoring the initiative and circulating the petitions, responded to the Chamber’s position. “RIFT would reduce and control future commercial development and the increased traffic congestion it would bring. But, from the Chamber Board’s perspective more commercial development is just what we need. The current processes, which allowed unchecked commercial over-development, are good. If we have more development, we can have a bigger city budget, more city employees.”
The SMCLC continued, “The Chamber’s Board would have us forget that we already have many more city employees per resident than other cities of comparable size. Forget that we already are one of the major tourist attractions in the region. Forget that we already have great hospitals, presently undergoing major expansions, which are excluded under RIFT. Forget that housing, including work-force housing, is also excluded under RIFT.
“Finally, forget that studies, including one done by our own city, conclude that commercial projects typically generate greater environmental costs in electricity, water, waste, and public services than the revenues they generate.”
The Chamber also states in its press release that “RIFT is particularly ill-timed given the City’s pending update of its Land Use and Circulation plans,” which is in agreement with the position taken by City officials.