Trust is hard to come by for developers wanting to build projects in Santa Monica.
Builders recently learned that lesson the hard way when dealing with city officials and residents of the beachside community, according to real estate developer, consultant, and affordable housing advocate Michael Russell.
After approving the multimillion-dollar Hines Bergamont Transit Village development project earlier this year, the City Council recently changed course and voted 4-3 to rescind the approval. Community activists who objected to the project led an effort to get the approval reversed, writes Russell.
“Because the opposition collected at least 6,500 valid signatures — roughly 10 percent of the registered voters in Santa Monica — the City Council was required to reverse its decision or place the matter before the voters, either in a special election or in November.”
Developers work diligently to meet community demands but often feel like they are in a battle against NIMBYism they can’t win, Russell contends.
“If, as the landowner, you follow all the rules, there is an expectation that the process will yield a vote and, in most cases, a positive vote. If the city council takes a vote and it is positive, there is an expectation that that vote means something. Otherwise, as landowners, we need to give councilmembers lie detector tests.”
Russell goes on to chart the project’s progress and subsequent stalling.