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Santa Monica Daily Press City Council Questionnaire

Santa Monica Daily Press Questionnaire
For publication



Name: Phil Brock
Age:  60
Occupation:  President/CEO Studio Talent Group; Santa Monica Recreation & Parks Commission Chair; Civic Auditorium Working Group; Boys & Girls Club Council; Kiwanis Board Member; VP, Samohi Alumni Board Of Directors, Immediate Past President, Talent Managers Association; Immediate Past President, CalParksBoard
Neighborhood:  NOMA
Own/Rent:  own
Marital status:  in a long term relationship
Kids:  no
Political affiliation: Democrat
Highest degree attained: M.Ed LMU
Hobbies: Travel, Photography, Hiking, Nature, Body Surfing, Basketball, Bicycling, Cooking, Film, Theatre, Volleyball
Reading list: Outrage by Robert Tannenbaum (I’m a featured character in the book); Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie; Magnificent Desolation by Buzz Aldrin; Revolution Of Hope by Vicente Fox; The Best I Can Be by Rafer Johnson
How do you get to work? Auto. Occasionally walk or by bicycle
Favorite place to have a quick, 1 on 1 meeting in Santa Monica? Callahan’s, Holy Grounds, my office or any park in Santa Monica
Favorite dinner spots  Chez Jay, The Galley, The Ivy At The Shore, Jiraffe, Chinois, The Courtyard Café, Pacific Dining Car, Art’s Table
Last sporting event you attended UCLA- Utah Football.  Go Bruins!!
 
Why are you running for City Council, what makes you qualified to lead, and what role do you see yourself playing on the dais if elected?

 I am not a politician. During my eleven years as a Recreation and Parks Commissioner (now Chair of that commission), I have been asked many times by concerned residents of Santa Monica if I would consider running for City Council.  My job as a volunteer Commissioner for the city is to be a liaison between the residents and the City Council.  I have tried to go above and beyond what is normally expected of my post, as I can see that there is much distress in our town.  My job is also to bring people together and facilitate communication, between Residents and City Government, between our Commission Members, and across the board with other Commissions.
 
In 2010, I was appointed to the CalParksBoard, an organization of Parks & Recreation Commissioners throughout the state. This gave me the chance to learn about creative solutions to issues in other cities.  I am President Emeritus of that organization, and was chosen California Parks & Recreation Commissioner of the Year for 2013.
 
I began my career teaching and coaching sports.  Working with hundreds of kids honed my leadership skills. I have been an entrepreneur for over thirty years, running small businesses, and here’s what I’ve learned.  I found that in the right situation, taking an educated risk can lead to success, and I have become adept at establishing relationships, at bringing people together, marketing, budgeting, hiring the right people, coaching and training, efficiency, and most of all, using common sense for every decision.  
 
Growing up in Santa Monica, I have witnessed the changes in our city - some positive, some negative.  I know what it’s like to see the palm trees with sky behind them, feel the ocean breeze, use our great parks, shop in our stores, gaze at the Santa Monica Mountains, and know when the surf is up!  I also feel our traffic congestion, the pressures to build higher and denser in our downtown and on our boulevards…to become downtown LA West.
 
I reject that vision.  I want a Santa Monica that cares about all of its residents, maintains a low-rise, human scale skyline, and whose streets are easy to navigate.  We are a city that must be innovative, must have a comprehensive infrastructure plan, and, a city that should never be overwhelming.
 
Our city’s motto is “Fortunate People in a Fortunate Land”, and while we are indeed fortunate, we must also preserve the reasons we chose to live here.
 
Therefore, I seek to become your next City Council Person.  I am confident that together we can preserve the promise of the City By the Bay that my grandparents loved when they arrived here in the 1920’s.


What are Santa Monica’s three major strengths and weaknesses? What will you do to ensure the strengths remain and the weaknesses are contained?

Our strengths:
 
(1) We have an abundance of natural resources.  They contribute to an unparalleled quality of life in Santa Monica.  Our air is clean, our temperatures moderate, and our beaches are second to none.  Sunlight is unobstructed and perfect ocean breezes flow through our neighborhoods.  I am the only candidate with the courage to commit to common-sense height limits.  They will protect our natural community benefits.  I will defend our low-rise community and our goal for more green space parks.
 
(2) We have concerned and active residents.  We care deeply about our world-renowned beach community.  78% of our registered voters voted in the 2012 general election.  That level of voter turnout is the pride of Santa Monica and the envy of the nation.  This illustrates our character, that neighbors across the city really do care about each other and our natural resources and will do something about it.  I will continue to support such community activity.  I've been actively engaged in our community my entire life and will continue to do so.
 
(3) We have a robust economic environment.  Parents from distant locales are clamoring to settle their families and pets in Santa Monica.  Commercial interests are competing fiercely to get an investment foothold.  The number of development proposals in the pipeline illustrate this.  One could say that Santa Monica is today's Sutter's Mill.  California is the golden state and Santa Monica is the proverbial pot at the end of the rainbow.  To retain this economic health, I will aggressively fight for lower taxes, thus enabling residents and local businesses to control more of their individual spending power and their invested funds.
 
Our weaknesses:
(1) We have a lack of political courage to withstand the assault from developers.  They seek to mine every ounce of gold possible at the expense of our residents, of our beach community traditions and at the expense of our quality of life.  What they miss is what we know:  Our treasure is our way of life, not the coins in our pockets.  As they say, "They're digging in the wrong spot."  That may sound old-fashioned to some, but it is 100% true.  To thwart the assault, I will have no trouble saying no to projects that exhibit no common sense or respect for our low-rise community.
 
(2) We have a lack of political vision to protect our beach community.  The future Santa Monica will be for our children.  What will it look like?  Will a wall of 21-story towers be lining Ocean Avenue?  Will traffic gridlock be choking residents and local businesses alike?  Will our children be living in stack-and-pack cubicle housing?  Traffic gridlock is already here.  We already have a substandard amount of green park space when compared to other cities in California.  And four massive developments are on the verge of being approved by our current City Council that will destroy our downtown district for the next 100 years. Is that what we want?  I don't think so.  I vote no.  It's now or never.  I vote for change.  I will work with the current minority of our Council who are conscientious and resident-centric.  They need help, a fourth vote.  I'll deliver and I will never forget what we seek – a future city for our children where a genuine quality of life exists.
 
(3) We have a lack of budget foresight.  Why are our local taxes the highest in the state?  Why are we caught so short-handed?  That lack of foresight is why we're now being asked to give up even more, to accept a sudden triple-hike of the tax rate.  Are you comfortable with voting for that type of fiscal responsibility?  I vote no.  Let's govern wisely.  I vote for a different course.  I will reject price and tax hikes that are not supported by facts with no alternative.

Homelessness used to be considered the City’s major problem but the topic has dropped from the public debate. Has the City solved the problem? Where does homelessness fall in the City’s list of priorities and why isn’t it a more common topic this year?

Santa Monica remains a desirable location for those who are homeless, just as it is for developers seeking a fortune.  The climate, the nearby beaches, the breezes and the sun draw those who live outdoors from around the nation. The number of homeless individuals has remained relatively constant for years now according to our annual homeless survey.  I would venture that the problem of homelessness in Santa Monica hasn’t changed dramatically. We’re just used to the problem as a city. Our city can’t “solve” the problem and it is still a large priority. Even with the extensive social services net that we provide, the problems associated with our nightly homeless population never disappear. There is a constant influx of new homeless individuals weekly. West Coast Care (doing a superb job), Project Homecoming, Chrysalis, Clare Foundation, St Josephs Center, OPCC, and Housing First all provide valuable services. We return approximately 300 people a year to their home city by contacting family members and social services. West Coast Care pays for their transportation home.

 In fact, we have one of the more robust social services programming plans in the nation. Therein may be one of the issues. We provide so many services that homeless individuals flock to Santa Monica to seek the myriad of assistance programs offered. In addition, some of the social service providers receive funding based upon the number of individuals treated each month. They may be more inclined to bring a needy individual along slowly rather than move them through the system quickly, so that they can pad their figures.

The dynamics of our homeless population are constantly evolving. Our problems are regional in nature. The Veterans Administration still hasn’t taken responsibility for their portion of the Veterans who are on the streets each night. Some homeless individuals sleep on sidewalks in Venice nightly. Others sleep on Will Rogers Beach due north of Santa Monica. Others are being chased out of skid row in downtown Los Angeles and ride the last bus to Santa Monica at 3:00AM and take the first Metro bus back to LA in the morning. Our Police Department is also hampered by the rules and regulations that are meant to protect the homeless but allow individuals to play a cat and mouse game with authorities. Our City Attorney’s office may be indirectly contributing to the problems by being overly cautious. 

And, the charitable feeding programs by well-meaning groups in parks and the Promenade do not make it desirable for the homeless go to shelters for help. One way to be helpful is to not feed people in our parks. If they are fed at OPCC or Samo Shell they sit a table and eat with dignity. Counselors can help get them off the streets, clean them up and return them to society. Allowing them to stay on the streets or in a park gives them no help and no hope.


Measure H and its companion HH will increase taxes on the sale of property over $1M to support construction of affordable housing. Do you support these measures? 

No.  I support the goal of affordable housing.  It enriches us.  It enables diversity of our population and our culture.  Could anything be more valuable?  It makes us better.  

But we must find a better way to do support it. This tax increase of 600% as proposed in Measure H will create anger and discord.  A sudden tripling of the tax on any segment of our neighbors is wrong.  This is a development tax with no expiration date.  The increase raises the Document & Property Transfer Tax to the highest rate in L.A. County. This increase is a reach too far. 

We must govern wisely.   I always want Santa Monica to be #1, but this is a race we need to lose.  Santa Monica currently charges $3 per $1,000 of the sale price.  This raises it to $9 per $1,000 of the sale price.  It will remain $3 on any sale under $1 million.  When the sale reaches $1 million, the tax on the entire sale becomes $9 per $1,000.  By contrast, Beverly Hills charges 55 cents per $1,000 of the sale price. 

Finally, this tax goes into the general fund with an advisory that it will be used for low-cost housing.  Should we follow blindly and simply trust that it will be used as intended?  Following blindly is not my nature.  A future Council could easily find a way to use it for unintended purposes. We have an endless abundance of nature's assets and good people.  We do not have endless pockets, or patience.  Where is the unbiased study proving this sudden tripling of the tax is absolutely necessary?  STOP tax increases.  Govern wisely. Find a better way.

Please vote NO on Measure H/HH.

Is Measure FS fair to all residents?

No. First, I question why the Rent Control Board needs a further increase in fees. Measure FS asks that the rent control registration fee be raised to $288 per controlled rental unit. By contrast, the City Of Los Angeles charges a rent control stabilization fee of $67.83 per unit.

This Measure also declares that only 50% of the yearly fee can be passed on to a tenant. Many of our landlords are true “Mom & Pop” small business owners who have not been able to adequately make money off their investment in years. To burden a landlord with an additional fee when their return on investment is so low is unfair. 

This increase also lowers the amount of money a landlord has to reinvest in apartment unit upgrades. I want to see tenants protected by our laws. Landlords also must treat their tenants fairly and justly.  

However I question why our fees per unit are over $200 higher per unit each year than the neighboring city of Los Angeles. I oppose measure FS and would like an audit of this city department before any fee increases are granted. 

Please Vote NO on Measure FS.

California is in the midst of a historic drought. Where does Santa Monica get its water from? Where can the City find more resources? Has the City done enough to conserve water? Has it done enough to educate consumers and incentive saving by residents?

There are aquifers under Santa Monica, Brentwood and Mar Vista that furnish us currently with about 70% of our annual water needs. Our water treatment plant is maxed out now, processing 9000 acre feet of water a year for our use. The remainder of our water (30%) comes via the Metropolitan Water District. 

We know that our aquifers contain enough water for our current population to use on a yearly basis. However our specialists are not sure whether under a prolonged drought, the aquifer will replenish itself adequately. Much of our water now is a shared resource with Los Angeles that they have never tapped for their own use. So, we must be vigilant about our use. We need to enlarge our water treatment plant so that all 16,000 acre feet of water can be treated if need be. We should continue our goal of becoming a sustainable city. We must eliminate our need for MWD water by 2020. We should not be participating in the purchase of water from other communities that desperately need it themselves. We can reduce our use of water from far away rivers and be self-reliant. 

In order to become self-reliant, we should require that new apartments install individual water meters- with no exceptions. Our city should provide incentives that will allow existing apartment and condo complexes to retrofit to individual water meters. Water conservation will succeed when everyone must pay his/her fair share of the water expense. 

As new construction is scheduled, each project must prove that the water it needs is currently available without stress to our system.  If not, they have to source it themselves independently. Santa Barbara has been successful enforcing this requirement for many years. We have to insist that we will not develop beyond our water supply. If a developer cannot guarantee self-sufficiency, a building permit will not be issued. For this reason, adaptive rehabilitation of existing buildings (with existing water meters) is extremely important to the future of Santa Monica. 

Finally, we have to require the same conservation standards for our commercial buildings and hotels that we require of home and apartment owners. The conservation information campaign should be more prevalent in our media, in banners and in our stores throughout Santa Monica. As it stands now, simply raising water rates seems to be the technique most used by our city government. Let’s change that!


What should City Hall’s role be when it comes to the creation of affordable housing?

While we should offer every incentive we can to help in the creation of more affordable housing, I want to stress that bypassing our zoning codes to let developers build taller and denser as a reward for the creation of this housing is not acceptable to me. We need to have zoning codes and standards that preserve the beach feel and character of our city. 

This question specifies the creation of affordable housing.  However I want to emphasize that we must have stringent programs in place to retain our existing housing. The case study of the Village Trailer Park shows clearly that the existing tenants were not valued, and indeed were marginalized. The resulting new project on that land will not be a boon for our community. It is a tragedy for our community and for the Trailer Park tenants that have now become unraveled from the social and economic fabric that forms the foundation of our population.

The creation of affordable housing units also needs to be vetted in order to give our first responders, safety and medical personnel “first dibs” on housing in the community. I need to note that I see affordable housing as encompassing entry-level middle class housing as well as low and ultra low income level unit creation. Most of our daily business traffic into Santa Monica is composed of young, middle class entrepreneurs.  They should be our housing priority in order to reduce traffic congestion and pollution in our city. 
 
Do you think the City has the legal authority to close the Santa Monica Airport? Is it a wise use of municipal funds to continue with litigation over the airport given the City’s history of losing? If the airport closes, what should be done with the property? If the City can’t close the airport, what steps should the city take?

Santa Monica does not have the legal authority to close SMO at this time. Further, we’ve sued the FAA at least four times and lost each time. Our last outside consultant law firm charged us over $1000/hr. Let’s not throw money away. In 2023 the FAA has said our obligation is over and the land will be returned to city control. At that time I believe the vast majority of our residents will want the airport closed. 

We must take steps now to protect the quality of life for our residents. We can reduce the amount of jets that fly out of our airport by reclaiming 35 acres of the western part of the runway in late 2015. This land was never encumbered by the FAA and is not part of any long-term agreement. Once that portion of the runway is closed the Guardian, G-4 and G-5 jets will no longer be able to operate from Santa Monica Airport. This will provide some relief from noise and particulate pollution. 

We must also raise rents to market rates for all aviation businesses at the Airport. We can accomplish this in July 2015 as all leases expire then. We must discourage the retention of flight school leases and we must encourage the sale of unleaded aviation fuel at SMO.

Finally, I’m the Chair of the Recreation & Parks Commission so anytime I hear “Park” anywhere in our city I’m intrigued. The Airport land was purchased with a park bond in the 1920’s. In a city that is so deprived of park space I’ll take a park anytime over Playa Vista North or Century City West.

Community benefits as part of development agreements: what is your definition of a benefit? When should the City Council demand benefits and to what degree? And should some be part of a checklist that developers can choose from, or should the council always have complete control in negotiations with developers?

A community benefit should be one that benefits our residents - not a developer’s pocket. That’s seldom the case. Over and over again, our Planning Department has been out-negotiated. I believe the process is flawed. Our residents almost always are given the short end, while the developer sings their way to the bank. 

Let’s change the equation. If we establish firm height, density and setback rules and it becomes widely known that our city government will not deviate from the given rules, development agreements will fade from existence. By not allowing the consolidation of land parcels and by emphasizing adaptive reuse of existing buildings, we decrease the amount of “opportunity sites” (worst term coined by a municipality, ever) available. When there is no choice but to use a development agreement, then the rules should be crystal clear with no opportunity for the developer, the Planning Department or the City Council to subvert them. Let’s rid development agreements of special interest giveaways, and work to make development agreements unnecessary in Santa Monica. With firm limitations in place there will be no bargains, no future Hines development agreements that choke our city and its residents. 

This approach is not only good for our residents - it’s also good for developers. They have a right to know the rules clearly when they buy a parcel. Those rules shouldn’t change. Whether the Mayor receives money to pay off her campaign debt should not be a factor in a development decision in Santa Monica. We’re not Chicago…transparency, honesty and integrity should always be our keywords.
 
What is your definition of overdevelopment and what is your plan to prevent it?

Overdevelopment is simple. You know it when you see it!  I believe most residents can tell you why Santa Monica is special, why they moved here and why they stay here. I can guarantee that they won’t tell you that high rises are the reason they’re here. 

Any development that dramatically changes the character of a neighborhood is too much. Any development that stresses our infrastructure is too much. Any development that would negatively alter the feel of a street is too much. We instinctively know that the “Miramar Plan” would be too much. We can feel that the Gehry Tower and the city-owned Plaza At Santa Monica are over-scale for our city. They’re just too much. 

We have height and density zoning ordinances in our town, but they’ve been continually ignored under the administration of this City Manager, the Planning Director and the majority on the City Council. How do we solve this blatant disregard for our rules?

 In our next general election we should have a measure on the ballot that proposes that mandated height, density and setback requirements will be voted on by the electorate. From that time onward, the rules will be solid. The risk of overdevelopment in our city will be vastly reduced. I advocate for a four-story height limit downtown, three stories on our boulevards and two stories in our neighborhoods. In addition, city owned property should never be exempt from the zoning codes. In fact, the land our city owns should set the finest example of good development standards.

Who is to blame for the Hines fiasco and what can be done to prevent a repeat of the issue? What should happen at the Hines site now?

The residue of the Hines Project rests at the feet of the Planning Department, the Planning Commissioners who voted for the Bergamot Area Plan, and the City Manager and City Council Members who voted for the Bergamot Area Plan and for this development. The audacity and hubris of those who promoted and voted for a plan and a development that would have rendered our city immobile is salient. 

Luckily 13, 510 residents rose up and signed a petition rejecting the project. Our mayor stated that 45,000 residents hadn’t yet weighed in. I trust that the vast majority of those residents would have also rejected a development plan that was too big, had too much traffic and whose community benefit package had no real benefits for our residents. 

We must remember not to vote for the incumbent Planning Commissioners and City Council Members who supported a flawed Area Plan and/or voted for the Hines Plan. We must adjust our zoning ordinances so that this type of proposal does not arise again in our city. 

The Papermate factory can be adaptively renovated and would have a dramatically smaller footprint then the Hines Plan would have had. A new developer may decide to build housing and neighborhood services on the site with enough underground parking to provide the needed parking for the light rail station across the street.  Our city could buy the parcel and build parking and a senior services center on the site. There are a myriad of options but all options must be in scale for our community and our neighborhoods in order to be approved.
 
What are your guiding principals for evaluating development in Santa Monica?

If a project increases stress on our water supply or other infrastructure components, adds to our current gridlock or obscures our blue sky and ocean breezes it should not be approved. If our streets are to be left in shadow during the day, our downtown skyline is to be elevated higher and higher, or if a project isn’t sustainable, then approval should not be granted. I want intriguing, low-rise, architecturally significant buildings with a reduced footprint and a lowered density that reflect our unique position in the world.

I want more parks. I want to reduce our “stress” ranking and improve our wellness ranking. I do not want a city that is already the 6th most densely populated city in California to move up the scale. We do not need new creative office space construction. We can adapt buildings without losing the character of our city or adding to traffic congestion. When we build structures they must always be human scale, designed to welcome our residents and visitors. I want developments that do not look like cargo containers in our city. We haven’t encouraged great buildings here recently.

That’s a shame. We can change that by fine-tuning rules and regulations to encourage entrepreneurship in development - thoughtful, creative new buildings that don’t do harm to our residents’ quality of life. That’s both the goal and my promise to all of you.

 
Where should the City look for future revenue sources to support the level of service that residents are accustomed too?

First, we must determine whether the highest paid city staff in California is giving us the level of service that we are “accustomed” to. Or are we are desperately looking for new revenue streams in order to continue to fund pensions and increases in salary that only benefit our city employees, not our residents. I favor an immediate audit of our city budget by an outside source. I want an ombudsman department established to assist residents with their concerns about city services.

We are fortunate to have a robust local economy that has four major economic engines driving our success. However, it is a truism that our residents, while indirectly sharing in the largess from our success, no longer feel vested in growth that appears to be out of control. Carefully managed growth that benefits our residents has to be the watchword. 

While watching out for the welfare of our residents we should endeavor to be a business-friendly city that is not #1 in the fees charged. We can encourage the incubation and growth of individual retail businesses and be a center of arts-related enterprise that also returns “lagniappes” to our residents via a dynamic public arts and culture program. Since we’re often trapped in our own city because of traffic, our residents must be offered year-round cultural programming. We need to encourage the establishment of retail that caters to our residents, not just to our tourist base. We must offer a better bus service for our residents’ needs. Having great transportation options will encourage businesses to locate here as well as ease traffic concerns.

Maintaining public safety and security will keep our city vibrant as well as encourage more businesses to lay down roots in Santa Monica. Our tourist economic engine is humming on all cylinders. More hotels (yes, I said the word, hotel) can be added in our downtown successfully without ruining the scale and character of our city.  However, they must be low-rise, green, union-staffed properties that blend with the character and culture of our city. Two low-rise properties that come to my mind as examples are The Ambrose and the Shore Hotel. Hotels must not be allowed to creep into the city’s apartment or residential zones.

The bottom line: We provide a myriad of services to residents but someone has forgotten to mind the chicken coop and the birds are out of control. Let’s get spending under control and provide the services that citizens desire, from a leaner city hall that does not take advantage of our residents’ pocketbooks. Growth can then be managed properly.
 
What are the top skills, abilities and personality traits you will look for in a new city manager?

The City Manager sets the tone for our city.  This position is the Chief Administrative Officer for the City Of Santa Monica. This person must be a proven leader and facilitator who is the responsible supervisor for our administrative staff and department heads. The person selected will perform, duties under the directive of city laws and ordinances, within policy guidelines provided by the City Council. The City Manager must be readily accessible to the citizens of Santa Monica, with an open line of communication, in order to be aware of any city situations that need to be addressed.

Our new City Manager needs to be empathetic and able to enforce existing rules and regulations without unilaterally creating policy. The right person should be a proven great leader, yet also a great follower and team member and should inspire a sense of trust, confidence and honesty. This person should possess exceptional budgetary skills, a history of sensitivity to the culture of past employers, and an eye for the unique qualities and needs of Santa Monica. 

Our most recent city managers have all shown strengths in different areas.  We need to do our best to find a City Manager for Santa Monica who has skills and talents in all of these areas.  One of our past City Managers felt the duty was to enforce the will of the City Council but never to sway the Council to a particular point of view. Another City Manager had great interpersonal skills and became good friends with City Council members. This easygoing attitude and listening skills went a long way towards diffusing angst in our city. Another City Manager told the Council the different path(s) they could follow and then told them which roads would not get them into trouble. The current city manager, while a financial whiz, could not read the mood of the city and skewed reports towards the direction that he wanted the Council to follow. While his financial acumen during a recession was valuable, his unwillingness to read the mood of the City Council majority was faulty.

So, we want a City Manager who is a magician and a wizard…but a kindly one who will listen to the Council Members we elect, follow their will and balance that with the will of our involved citizenry who pay the salary of our Chief Administrative Officer.




Do you trust the current city staff to provide council with information that is transparent, accurate and represents the people? 

No, I do not. That’s a shame. Our City Council is receiving tainted reports that are based upon data that skews towards the Council majority and the City Manager’s view of the policies he wants implemented. We must change our methodology and our results. Seven City Council members share one office and one secretary, and have no research staff of their own. They are reliant upon the reports they receive from the city staff that work for all of us. The only other source of information is the valiant, passionate residents who have become the city’s “shadow government”. 

It’s obvious that the City Council chose the wrong City Manager for our town. The City Manager must be a paragon of impartiality. The amount of discord in Santa Monica is higher than it has been since the 1970’s. How do we make sure that the City Council members receive accurate information on which to base crucial decisions for their constituents? 

We must provide each Council Member with a part-time staff member to provide outreach and to conduct research into issues within the city. We need to provide Council Members with their own office so that they can meet members of the public and talk with staff members in a comfortable, secure environment. We need to recognize that Santa Monica is an over-half-billion dollar business, and our Board Of Directors (the City Council) must have the tools to make wise decisions on behalf of the shareholders (Residents) of our community.

 
Santa Monicans for Renters Rights had different goals, priorities and membership from the City’s newest political party, Residocracy. Which of these groups has the best vision for the future of Santa Monica?

In 1978, the tendency toward rampant development was similar in many ways to today's real estate market in Santa Monica.  However those affected were different players on the "Monopoly Board".  Santa Monica land will always be highly desirable real estate, even in a recession.  Thus, when the economy starts to heat up, the financial forces in our city can easily go out of control, undermining the quality of life of our residents.  Santa Monicans for Renters Rights was established in 1978 to protect renters who were being forced out of their apartments by landlords who saw greater and more immediate profit in turning apartments into condominiums.

SMRR very successfully did what it was supposed to do.  It became a union of sorts for renters, who were the majority of residents but had little power.  SMRR organized and energized the community, helped elect their leadership to city government, and established rent control laws that continue to protect apartment-dwellers in our city today, perpetuating a wonderful diversity in our population.

Today's land struggle in Santa Monica affects not only renters, but all residents.  Powerful development corporations are swooping into the city, many from out of state or out of the country, buying up apartment buildings, adjacent structures and industrial properties with the purpose of building as tall and as dense a structure as they can fit on the land. Their only goal is to make as much money as possible off their purchase.  Some of these developments have already been completed.  However there are over 30 more under consideration by City Hall and the City Council.

If these plans are allowed to proceed, our city's already gridlocked traffic will become even worse. Where once you could look at a tree and see the sky, there will be a concrete wall behind that tree.  Our once fresh ocean breezes will deteriorate with the fumes of cars driving around relentlessly looking for parking.  I collected signatures for the referendum to stop the Hines Development earlier this year, which would have brought 7000 new car trips into the city per day.  Those signatures were very easy to obtain.  The organization I worked with was a new group called Residocracy, which is comprised of renters, home-owners and landlords who want to save the character, spirit and health of their city.

Renters’ rights should always be protected.  SMRR, however, has lost its way.  It needs to adapt to the changing needs of the city.  Our current city council, is failing to listen to the needs of the residents that they represent- this is an echo of the late 1970's.  Residocracy is now the moving force that we need to establish in our city government, to protect the essence of Santa Monica from the interests of outside developers. 

Business in Santa Monica have to navigate a complicated legislative environment that can include development agreements, multiple permit processes and stops at several commissions. Is the City a welcoming place for new businesses and does the city have the right attitude towards businesses?

We suffer from over-regulation, confusing ordinances, too much taxation and a business climate that is accurately described in California as one of the worst in our state. 
 
We must condense our regulations and make them clear and concise. We need to have clear-cut standards for new development in our city. A developer must know at the outset what they can build on a parcel of land. The height, the density and the setbacks have to be a given, not something to be negotiated. From permit inspectors to the Planning Department, a common sense approach needs to be implemented. We’re not fair to residents or to developers.
 
When something as simple as a plumbing inspection can go awry, when a restaurant has to hire an expediter to get through our red tape, then something is dramatically wrong with our process.  

Expediters and lawyers have established a thriving business addressing problems that should have been solved by city staff quickly and efficiently. Let’s not think of residents or business owners as targets to be continually milked. I believe we need to use common sense in City Hall!

Santa Monica should not require more paperwork and rules than surrounding cities - we should have the right rules and regulations in place.  Here quality trumps quantity.  We don’t need to offer huge incentives for businesses to come to our community- the beach lifestyle is draw enough.  However, Santa Monica does not need to cultivate a reputation as an elitist municipality with overly complex requirements for incoming commerce.  We need to reach out to innovative and creative people to start businesses here, live here and enrich our population. We need to be mindful of helping individual small businesses flourish in Santa Monica. 


Paid for by Committee to Elect Phil Brock For City Council - id#1392146 - 1328 Twelfth Street Santa Monica, Ca 90401
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