Tired of Traffic? Will an LV vote fix it?

Though borne out of local frustrations, Measure LV in Santa Monica is widely perceived as a referendum on the future of growth in the Southland and has regional ramifications for urban design, planning and architecture.

Measure LV supporters in Santa Monica. Photo courtesy KCAL 9.
Measure LV supporters in Santa Monica. Photo courtesy KCAL 9.

Measure LV in Santa Monica is a slow-growth ballot measure that would give voters the right to vote on most new developments over 32 feet high (2-3 stories.) Although it was borne out of local frustrations it is widely perceived as a referendum on the future of growth in the Southland and has regional ramifications for urban design, planning and architecture.

It is being watched, as well as supported by, the Coalition to Preserve LA, creators of the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative, a slow-growth measure going before City of Los Angeles voters on the March 2017 ballot. The Coalition is also funding opposition to Measure M, the L.A. Metro sales tax that would speed up the construction of mass transportation and alternative mobility, and support denser development.

The LV initiative, also known as LUVE (Land Use Voter Empowerment), infers that it will solve the very real challenge of congestion in Santa Monica. Tired of Traffic? tops the lawn signs visible on many properties in the neighborhood surrounding KCRW.

“Stop Over-development” is offered as the solution.

Model of the Ocean Avenue Project, designed by Frank Gehry. This was one of four dense, tall projects that helped fuel Measure LV. A Gehry-designed mixed-use, high-rise project on Sunset Boulevard was approved after modifications by the designer and developer.
Model of the Ocean Avenue Project, designed by Frank Gehry. This was one of four dense, tall projects planned for Santa Monica that helped fuel Measure LV. A Gehry-designed mixed-use, high-rise project on Sunset Boulevard was approved this week after modifications by the designer and developer, discussed on this DnA on ATC. Santa Monica’s City Manager said on this DnA that the city is negotiating with the Ocean Avenue project team to modify its scale.

But will it reduce traffic?

DnA wonders, would slowing growth in the future alleviate the congestion that currently annoys people so much? And what, in reality, would reduce traffic right now? Radical fixes might include:

— Close businesses, hospitals and schools so less people commute to work in Santa Monica each day (Around 90,000 people live in Santa Monica; an estimated 160,000 visitors and workers drive into the city each day; Santa Monica-UCLA Hospital, Santa Monica College, Saint John’s Hospital Medical Center and the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District are in the top five employers in the city; the City itself is #1.)
— Ban tourists from driving into Santa Monica.
— Rip out newly installed bike lanes (OR, add many more bikes lanes.)
— Build housing in Santa Monica for all the folks who currently drive into the beach city so they don’t clog the streets.
— Tear down past “over-development.”
— Make all students walk to school so their parents don’t jam the streets driving them to and from school (have you noticed how empty the roads are on school holidays?).

Of course, LV is offering none of these strategies.

On the other hand, the mass-transit based, denser city enabled by Measure M is not necessarily a traffic-reducer. Many academics point out that while expanding access to trains, buses and bike paths offers people alternatives to the car, it doesn’t alleviate congestion, especially as denser development brings more people into a community. Their argument is simply that living more closely to together is more sustainable than sprawl.

So what is LV promising to do and would it accomplish the goal of reducing traffic?

KCRW has been exploring the ramifications of LV on DnA and its news and current affairs shows. Check out the broadcasts below, as well as KCRW’s extensive election coverage in its Voter Guide and discussions on To The Point, Press Play, Olney in LA and All Things Considered. Check out DnA’s blog coverage of growth measures, here, including a conversation with Mayor Eric Garcetti about Measures M, HHH and JJJ. And read Curbed LA’s take on what types of buildings would require voter approval under Measure LV.

The Southland’s Growing Pains

DnA talks to architect Frank Gehry and Santa Monica City Manager Rick Cole about the urban design and planning implications of height restrictions. The segment includes comments from Santa Monica Forward outreach director Jason Islas, well as clips from LV supporter Phil Brock and LV opponent Frank Gruber, excerpted from a longer conversation with KCRW’s Madeleine Brand on this Press Play. While Phil Brock argues that Santa Monica needs height restrictions in order to keep its “beach town” feel, Gehry says beware such uniformity, adding, “we should look at the city globally and understand what those new regulations, if they were imposed, would really mean. It would be a disaster.”

Santa Monica’s Measure LV is being watched around the southland

The Neighborhood Integrity Initiative is measure on the March 2017 ballot that would restrict development in Los Angeles. Folks behind NII are supporting another slow-growth ballot measure – this one in Santa Monica. On this DnA on ATC Frances Anderton talks with Steve Chiotakis about Measure LV and asks what it means for downtown Santa Monica, and the region.

The Struggle Over Growth

Young and elderly residents describe life in Santa Monica’s bustling new downtown; Measure LV authors Tricia Crane and Armen Melkonians explain why growth needs to slow down; City Manager Rick Cole makes the case for clear, firm planning: Santa Monica Forward outreach director Jason Islas; and Carl Hansengovernment affairs director for the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce explain the implications of LV for affordable housing both in Santa Monica and across the Southland.

The Pros and Cons of Measure LV

Madeleine Brand discusses Measure LV with Phil Brock, a former commissioner for the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, and Frank Gruber, writer and former Planning Commissioner for the City of Santa Monica. KCRW’s Saul Gonzalez asks if voters should have direct control over what gets built in this report.

From left: Amy Utani, Gary Llewellyn , Sherri Mattingly, and Ida Riley live in Santa Monica Christian Towers, a 13 story residential building for seniors that provides a walkable lifestyle in downtown Santa Monica (photo by Frances Anderton)
From left: Amy Utani, Gary Llewellyn , Shari Mattingly and Ida Reilly live in Santa Monica Christian Towers, a 13-story, affordable community for seniors. Hear them talk about their downtown lifestyle on this DnA (photo by Frances Anderton). Image at top of page: traffic on the Pacific Coast Highway in Santa Monica in the 1930s (courtesy Caltrans.)