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Funds target growth limit issue

The effort to fight curbs on the expansion of commercial space in Santa Monica brings in nearly $730,000.

October 25, 2008|Martha Groves | Groves is a Times staff writer.

Opponents of a proposed cap on commercial development in Santa Monica have collected almost $730,000, according to campaign disclosure filings released this week.

Most of the money aimed at defeating Measure T, which would limit expansion of hotels, offices and retail space to 75,000 square feet a year for 15 years, has been raised by developers -- some based as far away as New York, Houston and Chicago.

Supporters of the slow-growth measure fear that developers and development-related interests are on track to raise $1 million by Nov. 4 and will skew the election with their donations.

"When you have truckloads of out-of-town money pouring into an election in this small a town, it's no longer about the issues. It's about the money," said Diana Gordon, who helped create the Residents' Initiative to Fight Traffic, which gave rise to the ballot measure.

According to campaign disclosure filings, the Save Our City-No on T campaign has collected $729,771.

Topping the list of out-of-town donors is Equity Office Properties of Chicago, which owns a Santa Monica office park and has contributed $140,000.

Hines, a Houston-based company that plans to build 300,000 square feet of office space at the former Papermate site at 26th Street and Olympic Boulevard, has kicked in $99,000.

The Fairmont Miramar Hotel, owned by New York-based MSD Capital (an investment firm that manages the capital of computer magnate Michael Dell), gave $49,900, just skirting the $50,000 threshold that would require it to be listed on campaign materials as a major donor.

Local donors also kicked in, with landowner Belle Vue Plaza contributing $100,500 and Macerich, the mall owner that is remodeling Santa Monica Place, giving $30,000. Smaller donations came from attorneys, an auto dealership and architects.

Measure T would slow commercial development to about half its current rate and thereby alleviate future traffic congestion, supporters say.

Opponents, however, contend that the measure would hamper the city's ability to raise funds for city services and would also harm efforts to promote mixed-use and transit-oriented development.

"We made a decision to invest in the Save Our City campaign, which is the broadest coalition that has ever been assembled in the city of Santa Monica, to fight a poorly drafted initiative that will have a devastating impact upon the future funding of city services and schools," said Colin Shepherd, senior vice president in Hines' Los Angeles office.

At a rally for Measure T supporters Friday afternoon, Santa Monica Councilmen Bobby Shriver and Kevin McKeown stood near the Cloverfield entrance to the eastbound 10 Freeway, holding aloft signs reading, "Had enough traffic? Yes on T" and "Santa Monica is not for sale."

They were joined by Los Angeles Councilman Bill Rosendahl, whose district adjoins Santa Monica.

His sign read: "Honk if u want traffic fixed."

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martha.groves@latimes.com

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