Santa Monica : Petition Drive Cost $31,000

The referendum drive that is expected to place the fate of a proposed large commercial office project at Santa Monica Municipal Airport before the voters next year didn't come cheap.

Santa Monicans for the Public Trust, the group that organized the drive earlier this month, spent nearly $31,000 to collect about 9,000 signatures in two weeks. Nearly half of the money went for postage. Because of the short time available to gather the signatures, the group mailed petitions to all 56,000 registered voters in the city. Sharon Gilpin, a spokeswoman for the group, said about 70% of the signatures collected were returned by mail.

Campaign treasurer Don Girard loaned the committee $29,875 and it received several hundred dollars in donations, according to the financial statement covering the period through Nov. 9. Girard said there have been pledges of only about $7,000 as of this week, but he remains optimistic that the additional $22,000 can be raised to repay the loan.

If at least 5,600 signatures are verified by the county registrar of voters, the City Council is expected to place the matter on the ballot rather than reverse its 4-3 approval of the 822,000-square-foot project. The council, which is expected to take action at its Dec. 12 meeting, can call a special election or wait until the municipal election next November.

Opponents of the controversial project proposed by Reliance Development Group claim it would create unwieldy traffic problems. Supporters say the revenues it would generate are needed to maintain the level of city services.

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