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Santa Monica Traffic Consultant Clarifies “NIMBY” Comment By Jason Islas Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark
Staff Writer

March 1, 2013 -- Traffic Consultant Jeff Tumlin, who came under fire from neighborhood groups this week for saying that Santa Monica politics were dominated by NIMBYs, said that he doesn't believe the term, which denotes residents reflexively opposed to development, is applicable to modern-day Santa Monica.

Tumlin, who became a consultant for the City in 2005, said that he has seen the discussion about development change dramatically from residents simply wanting to say no to development (NIMBY stands for “not in my back yard”) to a more nuanced understanding of how to control development.

“There aren't NIMBYs in Santa Monica in 2013,” Tumlin told The Lookout Thursday. “The debate is no longer about stopping development but shaping it.”

That, however, wasn't the case in 2005, Tumlin said. Then, the tone of the debate was much starker, he said.

“I think in 2005, the Santa Monica residents were right to oppose the development that they were seeing at that time because that development was making Santa Monica less like what citizens wanted Santa Monica to be,” he said.

Before the Land Use and Circulation Element (LUCE) was adopted in 2010, the City operated with the 1984 General Plan, which gave “no clear direction about how the City should move forward” with development, Tumlin said.

The line in his resume that caused all the trouble, he said, was written a few years ago, when the City had just finished finalizing the LUCE.

“For decades, Santa Monica politics had been dominated by NIMBYs who used traffic fear as their primary tool for stopping development,” Tumlin wrote in his resume.

Both North of Montana Association (NOMA) and Santa Monica Coalition for a Liveable City (SMCLC) began circulating a letter to the City Council, calling for the termination of Tumlin's contract after they discovered his online resume.

Tumlin’s resume goes on to say, “The city’s award-winning 2011 Land Use and Circulation Element update, however, commits to no net increase in vehicle trips, by locating all future growth near transit, establishing new neighborhood retail centers, imposing a multimodal transportation impact fee, and enacting more robust Transportation Demand Management requirements.”

Tumlin said that his statement was pointing out that the way Santa Monicans discuss development has changed.

“I'm proud of the way the development dialogue has changed,” Tumlin said. “We tried to help (residents) realize that simply saying 'No' to development only slows the pace at which everything gets worse.

“But saying yes to the right sort of development in the right place with the right design and the right mitigation,” he said.

Recently, Tumlin ruffled feathers when he talked about a plan to help mitigate traffic woes in the City.

Part of the plan would include reducing parking requirements for developments, especially along transit corridors to encourage people to use alternate means of transportation, in order to meet the LUCE's goal of no new net P.M. car trips.

With 35 large developments in the pipeline, residents are skeptical that traffic won't become worse.

“It does sound a little Alice in Wonderland-like to say there's going to be all this development and there will be less traffic than today,” Tumlin said.

But he added that if the LUCE is built-out, there would only be a 10 percent increase in “person trips.” That means, to meet the LUCE's goal, planners need to get a 10 percent reduction in P.M. trips or a baseline of 60,100 peak hour trips.

And that could happen “if employees and residents are given better transportation choices,” he said.

The downtown area of Vancouver has seen a 25 percent reduction in traffic as a result of similar planning, he said. Smaller cities like Boulder and Arlington have seen similar results city-wide.

Tumlin isn't discouraged by the reaction to his comments.

“I love working in Santa Monica largely because the passionate debate about the City's future,” Tumlin said. “Citizens are right to be proud” of their activism.

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