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SMRR Candidate Questionnaire answers

1. The primary threat to the security and wellbeing of renters in our town is the same danger that imperils the spirit and character of our whole city. This threat is outside developers who purchase or already own property and have the intent of constructing as dense and as high as possible to maximize their return on investment. Large condos, town homes and high - rise buildings are planned where modest apartment buildings have stood for decades. This is a threat not only to the open-sky, beachside quality of the city – it is also a danger to the economic and social diversity of Santa Monica.
 
I speak from personal experience. I was born in Santa Monica and I was a renter in a rent-controlled unit for many years.  The rent control law allowed me, a young public school teacher, to live in an affordable apartment with the knowledge that rent increases would be fair. I couldn’t be evicted on an owner’s whim. I had enforceable rights and the landlord had nothing to gain by evicting me. My neighbors and I had stability and a peaceful enjoyment of life. Unfortunately, that has changed. 

These changes are that landlords now have an incentive for evicting tenants to charge higher rents. Developers seek approval to build extremely high-priced condos and mixed-use buildings that have too few genuine,family-friendly units. The rents that the market will now bear in our city are astronomical. If we do not act, Santa Monica will become a city of high-income social elite living in cold high-rises. This will destroy what I loved about my city growing up - the outstanding economic and social diversity of Santa Monica.  

Green space is being usurped by potential new development. What might become valuable as green space for residents. Without parks or green space nearby, apartment dwellers are bound by four walls. It should be every renter’s right to have a park or green play area within ¼ mile of his/her apartment, close enough for Moms with toddlers or seniors to access easily. There is scientific evidence that people who live near parks are healthier mentally and physically.

Solutions: 

We can prevent the aggregation of lots in our city. The incentive is lower to Ellis a single apartment house, duplex or triplex in order to build another 50 x 150-foot rental building than there is when multiple lots are combined.  It is imperative that conservation overlay districts be installed in the apartment zones in Santa Monica. We must step up our assistance to renters who are being harassed for petty issues in their units by landlords who see financial benefit in taking back an apartment. The disturbance of a tenant at home by landlords misusing lawful entry must stop. We must stop landlords from evicting renters of any kind just to grab a shiny new development in our town.  As city officials we must do everything in our power to preserve the reason rent control was added to our city’s laws. We must protect our fellow residents! 

2. Voting for the Bergamot Area Plan was wrong.  It led to approval of the Hines
project and the wrong solution for affordable housing.
  We need support for affordable housing, not for more office space.  Redevelopment funds earmarked for affordable housing evaporated.  We can regain some of that funding:  (1) Work with the state legislature to restore the funds.  (2) Implement an increase in the .3% transfer tax.  (3) Implement an increase in the 14% hotel room tax.  That will increase availability of affordable housing.  Quality of such housing must be rooted in our zoning, never negotiated away in back room Development Agreements (DAs), and enforced.  Families cannot 'settle in' and live in Santa Monica when units are too small and made with 'paper-thin' walls; such units disrespect and degrade the dignity of renters.  We can do better.  Single residents, too, are vital to our cultural diversity and local workforce; they, too, deserve respect and dignity.

 3.   Occupants of apartment building with long interior hallways surrounded by concrete, without ample exterior green space are not relaxed and happy.  We should see sun and sky, and feel the ocean breezes when we walk down our streets.  We should not be trapped in high-rise canyons of concrete and steel where only dark shadows and wind tunnels exist.  We treasure our courtyard apartments and the character of our low-rise beach community. 

I support greater emphasis on open/green space that is genuine, not a token scheme that is nothing more than a gesture to fill in a blank on a proposal.  Floor Area Ratio (FAR) numbers alone should not frame the scale and mass of new construction.  We are below par for green space.  We can do better.

I support a 4-story height limit in downtown for new construction, a 3-story limit on the boulevards, and a 2-story limit in our neighborhoods.  Any request for extra height must go to the voters of Santa Monica.  Development should be controlled by zoning, not by DAs done with a wink-and-nod in a back room.  Case: for approval of the Village Trailer Park project, the city received $2.5 million in “community benefits.”  In exchange, the developer paid less than $5 million for the property and, upon receiving DA approval, promptly sold it for approximately $62 million. And nearly 90 of our elderly and low-income neighbors were evicted in the process.  Where was the proper role of government?

A zoning code that is ironclad, clear and understandable is preferable to the DA
process.  This will benefit everyone – residents, city planners and developers by creating certainty, thus saving time and eliminating unnecessary administrative modification by City staff, and unnecessary costs and anger.  We have enough of anger.  When do we begin to enjoy life? 

4.  Voting for the Bergamot Area Plan was wrong.  It led to approval of the Hines project. 
But the Bergamot Art Center is an important cultural asset under-used by our residents.  The art gallery owners admit that most of their customers are not from Santa Monica. So, we can simply implode the grounds and start over or we can work with the galleries and residents to build a better Bergamot that each of us will love.  We can preserve the artistic feel of the Arts Center and enhance the offerings. We can add a 3-story boutique union hotel (ex: The Ambrose) placed strategically. A restaurant, continued live theatre, museum enlargement, the addition of the Virginia Avenue Project, and the inclusion of  2nd-story overlays to some galleries will allow UCLA, CalArts and others to create an education synergy that is now missing.  An actual arts studio would be a welcome addition. A small outdoor, green amphitheatre for impromptu concerts, and the greening of the entire Bergamot area is necessary. These additions can be added to the complex without the destruction of each and every gallery, the museum and the existing theatre. Train passengers and our residents should be served without decimating the feel and composition of the existing business. This is a perfect place to implement the green, adaptive rehab standards that should also be applied downtown. The Bergamot Station Expo stop was erroneously designed without parking, and Agencys currently leases parking from one of the Bergamot owners.  Hence, we should demand that the neighboring businesses live up to their TDM plans.  We should explore off-site parking and limited underground parking or a small deck in a corner of the complex.  Bergamot is renowned for its art gallery colony.  Let’s expand the “Arts” in the Bergamot Arts Center.

5.  The core of the SMRR platform is to protect a quality of life for all residents.  I support it.  If I am honored to have the support of SMRR and to sit on the City Council, my seat will not be devoid of courage.  I will vote to (1) support affordable family housing, (2) oppose the current Bergamot Village Plan, (3) support a fair living wage and workers to freely organize as unions, (4) support low height and density, (5) fight for more parkland in our neighborhoods, (6) ask for support for police and fire departments so that they can maintain safe streets and protect our daytime population. I will (7) support adequate water and power, (8) support Santa Monica Municipal Bus Lines operations so they actually serve residents' needs, (9) support our schools and do more to support our youth and teen providers. I will (10) support ultra-low, low and moderate-cost housing by preserving and enhancing it, (11) support the elimination of jet traffic at SMO, (12) support a robust environment for local businesses to serve residents.  Being great guardians of our parks, beaches and animals is mandatory. Santa Monica must remain a compassionate place for all of our residents.  A councilperson’s pledge should be, "Do no harm to our community."  I agree.

 



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