Santa Monica kills massive development; residents claim victory

Protesters gathered outside Santa Monica City Hall in February to voice their opposition to the Hines project.
(Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times)

The Santa Monica City Council on Tuesday rescinded a controversial development agreement for one of the city’s largest projects following an outcry from the community and a successful referendum campaign.

The Hines project -- a 765,000-square-foot residential, office and retail development near the coming Expo Line -- was narrowly approved in February. But when forced to decide Tuesday between putting the fate of the project on the ballot and rescinding the development agreement on the spot, the council voted 4-1 to kill the plan. Two council members abstained.

The victory for slow-growth advocates comes as Santa Monica has found itself in the midst of a growth spurt. As of late last year, city officials said more than 30 projects in the pipeline could add nearly 3 million square feet in new residential, office and retail space.


The Hines project, which was slated to fill the old Papermate Building at the city’s Bergamot Station Arts Center, was listed as the largest project in the pipeline at the time.

Residents had organized to fight the agreement under the banner of, the name of an online platform created by former City Council candidate Armen Melkonians. Using the web to help sign up volunteer signature gatherers, the group managed to gather enough signatures to qualify a referendum on the project.

City officials said organizers had gathered more than 13,500 signatures, though the Los Angeles County registrar-recorder stopped counting once it had verified 6,800.

“We’ve taken a big step toward taking our city back,” Melkonians told The Times shortly after the referendum had been certified. “We showed that we weren’t just a loud minority.”