Woe awaits developers in California ballot initiatives to control growth

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ballot-box The Saint Report carried a Los Angeles Times report in August about Santa Monica’s ballot initiative to curb commercial development for 15 years. The Los Angeles Business Journal notes that businesses and developers are fighting back against the November ballot measure.

Owen Eagan, the Saint Consulting division manager for Southern California, comments on the woe that can befall developers who fail to engage local residents in land use and development matters:

Up until now, it seemed that residents were just concerned about the amount of traffic generated by certain types of development projects. Now it seems that residents of some communities have had enough of traffic, period. This measure proposed in Santa Monica sets a new political threshold for developers to overcome and speaks to the importance of having developers assess the political implications of a project from the local neighbors to the community at large.

Residents have become increasingly sensitive to development and savvy about ways to influence the planning process as evidenced by two other ballot initiatives pending in Southern California.

In Beverly Hills, residents have referred a decision by the Beverly Hills City Council for a new Waldorf-Astoria hotel and two high-rise condo towers because they believed that the developer wasn’t forthright about the scope of the project.

In Redondo Beach, residents concerned about the impact of sprawl have sponsored a ballot initiative to require voter approval for any major changes in land use. All three measures are on the ballot this fall.

Regardless of their outcomes, the lesson once again is that developers who fail to conduct their political due diligence and engage the public in a meaningful way do so at their own peril.

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