Council May Put Hotels Issue to Voters : Santa Monica to Study Financial Impact of Beachfront Bans

Times Staff Writer

Supporters of an initiative that would ban new beachfront hotels in Santa Monica failed to collect enough valid signatures to force a special election, but the City Council may call an election anyway for that initiative and a competing one that has yet to qualify for the ballot.

The City Council on Tuesday night asked the city staff to study the financial impact the two initiatives could have on city revenues and expenditures. The report is expected in 30 days, at which time the council is expected to set a date for a special election--perhaps to coincide with the statewide election in June--or place the initiatives on the ballot of the regularly scheduled city election in November, 1990.

Meanwhile, the backers of one of the initiatives, Save Our Beach Committee, suffered a setback when one of two beachfront hotels they are attempting to stop received city approval to proceed.

Committee members had sought to overturn Planning Commission approval of Maguire Thomas Partners' plans for a six-story, 175-room hotel on Ocean Avenue next to the recently opened Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel. The committee members contended that the environmental impact report was deficient because it had not properly considered the impact of other pending projects in the area.

No Council Majority

But the council--with Councilman William H. Jennings absent and Councilman Ken Genser abstaining because of a potential conflict of interest--could not muster the necessary four-vote majority to either officially uphold or overturn the commission's decision.

With no action by the council, the Planning Commission decision stands.

Maguire Thomas still needs state Coastal Commission approval before city building permits can be issued. There is still an outside chance the project could be stopped if voters approve the Save Our Beach Committee initiative before the project is substantially under construction.

Sharon Gilpin, a committee organizer, said she was "disgusted" by the council's action.

300 Signatures Short

The Save Our Beach Committee's problems began last week when it was notified by the county registrar-recorder that only 8,120 of the 10,263 signatures submitted were valid. That left the committee about 300 signatures short of the number needed to force a special election.

Although some council members have said they support a special election for the initiative, Gilpin said she expects it to be placed on the November, 1990, city ballot.

"My gut feeling is that they will set it for November," she said.

The registrar-recorder is still determing how many of the 8,772 signatures submitted on Aug. 2 by Santa Monicans for a Livable Environment (SMiLE) are valid. At least 5,613 valid signatures, or 10% of the city's registered voters, are needed to qualify for the ballot in a regular election.

The initiative by the SOB committee, as it has become known in Santa Monica, would ban all new beachfront hotel and large restaurant development, including the Maguire Thomas project and a city-sponsored effort to convert the private Sand and Sea Club on Pacific Coast Highway into a hotel and public beach center.

The SMiLE initiative would also ban new beachfront hotels, but would exempt the Maguire Thomas and the Sand and Sea project. It would also place a three-year moratorium on new hotel development in the rest of the city, and use a portion of hotel bed taxes for the cleanup of Santa Monica Bay and city parks.

In a related matter, SMiLE called on the state Fair Political Practices Commission to investigate the SOB committee and another organization, the Not Yet Miami Committee, for failing to file campaign spending reports by the Aug. 10 deadline.

The complaint also requests that the FPPC investigate whether the two committees are engaged in a deliberate cover-up of their finances and sponsorship by Pacific Parks Inc., a company owned by Douglas Badt, who is the operator of the Sand and Sea Club.

However, City Clerk Clarice E. Johnsen said her office gave the committees the wrong filing deadline. Johnsen said she expected the reports to be filed by the end of the week.

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