Santa Monica activist Armen Melkonians will host a referendum launch event this Wednesday, Feb. 12 in an attempt to veto the City Council’s 4-3 vote Tuesday night to approve Hines’ 765,095 square foot mixed-use development at 1681 26th Street.
Melkonians said the launch event would be held at 7 pm at the SGI-USA Building at 606 Wilshire Boulevard in Santa Monica.
“Our elected officials failed to hear the voices of the vast majority of Santa Monica residents who are concerned about the rapidly deteriorating quality of life in our town when it comes to traffic and congestion,” Melkonians said.
Melkonians, founder of recently launched Residocracy.org, said nearly all of its 800 plus members opposed the project by signing an e-petition.
In addition, he said every neighborhood group in Santa Monica opposed the project as well as Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights (SMRR) and Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City (SMCLC).
Melkonians said all Santa Monica residents were encouraged to attend Wednesday’s event.
“By law, the referendum must be launched after the second reading of the Ordinance which will occur on Tuesday, February 11, 2014,” he said. “Therefore, Residocracy.org will post an official referendum petition on our website at www.residocracy.org on Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014 that will be available to download, print, and circulate for signatures by our community network of residents.”
Melkonians said the petition needed about 6,100 signatures – at least 10 percent of the registered voters in Santa Monica – as the first step to stop this project from moving forward.
Melkonians said there was a 30-day window from the passing of the second reading of the ordinance to collect the required signatures.
“My belief is that we’re going to get double the number of required signatures,” Melkonians told The Mirror. “We have a bunch of people who have volunteered to take to the streets to collect signatures. We’ll also work with the neighborhood groups to help push the petitions. The sentiment on the streets is that everyone is opposed to the project, which is mostly based on the traffic impacts and the sheer size of it.”
Melkonians said if the required number of signatures are collected and verified by the Santa Monica City Clerk’s office (who contracts with the LA County Registrar’s Office on such matters), the ordinance would be immediately halted.
He said the matter would then return to City Council.
“One they can kill the ordinance instantly,” Melkonians said. “Or two they can decide to put it on the next general election or a special election to be held after a minimum of 88 days.”
If placed on a special election or the November general election as a ballot item, the referendum would need more than 50 percent of the vote to pass, Melkonians said.
“From my understanding, the same ordinance cannot be brought up within a year after the passing of a referendum,” Melkonians said. “It would have to be significantly altered by the developer to be brought back before then.”
Melkonians said it would be “political suicide” if any council member did vote for the project in the future if the referendum passes.
“For example, if we are successful and get a lot of signatures, say 20,000 signatures, it would be clear to the elected representatives that the people don’t want the project,” he said.
Kate Vernez, Santa Monica Deputy City Manager for Special Projects, confirmed the referendum petition must be filed with the City Clerk and the law allowed 30 days for signatures to be collected.
“The Elections Code specifies that the requisite number of signatures is 10 percent of the voters of the city according to the county election official’s most recent official report of registration,” Vernez said. “If the requisite number of signatures were collect, the effective date of the ordinance would be suspended, and the Council would be required to reconsider the ordinance.”