Voter’s Guide: Santa Monica’s Prop. T

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Ballot Initiative Proposition T Seeks To Limit Commercial Development in Santa Monica

(Between now and the November 4th election, LA Streetsblog will be writing about as many local ballot measures that effect transportation that we can find.  Please email any suggestions to damien@streetsblog.org.)

A group of Santa Monica residents known as the Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City, tired of the overwhelming traffic they see caused by commercial development, have placed a measure on this fall's ballot, known as Proposition T, that would limit commercial development in Santa Monica to 75,000 square feet a year for the next 15 years.  Santa Monica, which is only 8 square miles large, has seen over 9,000,000 feet of commercial development over the last 25 years.

Opponents of Proposition T, led by State Senator Shelia Kuhl and the chair and co-chair of Santa Monica's Planning Board, claim the proposal would do little to help traffic because the major commercial developments that already exist in Santa Monica will continue to create traffic.  On top of that, developers will just build large residential developments over existing units replacing and wiping out existing affordable housing.

Right now, much of the debate has been between the two factions arguing whether the plan would reduce traffic and what cost the proposal would have for the people of Santa Monica.  What has been somewhat absent is a clear alternative to the proposal to improve the quality of life on Santa Monica's streets.

For example, a mix of a large affordable housing plan, an increase of bus service to major traffic generators such as the Water Garden and Westside Center, and continuing to invest in pon-motorized transportation infrastructure could have a larger impact on traffic demand than a proposition limiting development.  For those of us that watched last night's presidential debate, one might say this type of approach is the "scalpel approach" versus the hatchet of Proposition T.  Unfortunately, that's not the debate we're seeing, at least thus far.

Personally, I find this proposition to be too poorly written to pass even if a credible transportation engineer could prove that it would lessen traffic.  Hospitals are concerned it threatens their viability by limiting their chance to grow and the reality is there are a lot of good developments that can be built, especially transit oriented developments that should be put in place before the Subway to the Sea and Expo Line are completed.  I would be a lot more comfortable with this proposal if it had exemptions for TOD or other sustainable development plans.  In other words, try a carrot approach rather than a ban.

For more information and opinions about Proposition T, check out the website for the Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City and Neal Payton's exhaustively researched No On Proposition T Blog.

Image: DooleyMTV/Flickr