I want this to be understood. Rent Control is the law of the land and I will be faithful to the law. I, nor any existing council member or future council member can change this law. The law was enacted by the residents and only the residents can change the law through a citywide revision of the city charter. As in everything I do, I clearly intend to provide and protect our city's residents, first and foremost.
Rent Control has been and continues to be a lifesaver for so many Santa Monica residents. For many years, I was a renter in Santa Monica and needed the security of measured rent increases to stay in the town of my birth. I am a proud member of Santa Monica For Renters Rights. Rent Control is codified in Santa Monica, and the State of California also protects renters. We are besieged by the proliferation of bigger, new apartment buildings, tiny living quarters and no soul, and rents that threaten our citizens with price inflation beyond any reasonable level. Our biggest struggles now are not merely to preserve rent control but also to have enough units that our longtime citizens of modest means can afford.
Our city can add more Historic Districts to protect more of our garden and courtyard style apartments, which will help prevent the demolition of existing affordable units. I was proud to be one of the leaders of the Historic San Vicente Blvd District. We preserved dozens of existing buildings through the landmarking process and saved them from demolition. We must expand our programs that facilitate the retention of seniors in their existing units, through subsidies when necessary. It's essential in Santa Monica that we preserve our economic and social diversity. It's a matter of social justice, and Rent Control helps achieve it.
The primary threat to the security and well-being of renters in our town is the same danger that imperils our whole city's spirit and character. 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 investment return. Large condos, townhomes, and high-rise buildings are proposed where modest apartment buildings have stood for decades. This construction is a threat not only to the open-sky, beachside quality of the city but also 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 removing me. My neighbors and I had stability and 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 contain too few 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. These will destroy what I loved about my city growing up - the outstanding economic and social diversity of Santa Monica.
Green space is usurped by new developments on what would become valuable green space for residents. Without parks or green spaces nearby, apartment dwellers are bound by four walls and lots of cement. 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 quickly. There is scientific evidence that people who live near parks are healthier, mentally, and physically.
We can prevent the aggregation of lots in our city. The incentive is lower to Ellis, a single apartment house, duplex, or triplex to build another 50 x 150-foot rental building than there is when multiple lots are combined. Conservation overlay districts should be authorized 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 to grab a shiny new development in our town. As city officials, we must do everything to preserve the reason rent control was added to our city's laws. We must protect our fellow residents!