MY WRITE — Due to a tight deadline, I have nothing to say about yesterday’s annual Santa Monica for Renters’ Rights (SMRR) convention at John Adams Middle School. My apologies, but you can bet the family Prius that I’ll be commenting in depth next Monday.
I’m getting a kick out of SMRR leaders whining about how a host of new members, such as myself, who’ve joined the organization to support candidates that we want to endorse are challenging their power and authority.
Apparently, “hundreds” of newbies have joined SMRR – most in the last six months – with the express purpose of supporting fresh, new candidates that aren’t SMRR insiders.
School Board incumbent Oscar do la Torre claims he signed up over 100 new members pledged to support his agenda which included firing City Manager Rod Gould (Gould announced his resignation late last week).
Residocracy.org, various neighborhood groups and the Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City have also encouraged folks to join SMRR and vote for endorsements for favorite candidates – who may not be favored by SMRR’s secretive thirteen person Steering Committee.
For the first time in many years, SMRR leaders see the possibility of non-insider candidates being endorsed. Patricia Hoffman and her co-chair Richard Tahvildaran-Jesswein worry that many of the new members may not share “SMRR’s core values” – rent control and unlimited new affordable housing. In other words, Democracy is “OK” as long as “outsiders” don’t interfere with the Politburo, huh?
Residocracy.org and the neighborhood groups sponsored the first City Council candidate forum of the season last Monday evening in the main library’s 146 seat Martin Luther King Auditorium.
There were probably 300 plus people waiting outside the library at 6 p.m. It was obvious that many folks weren’t going to get in. That didn’t stop Maria Loya (Mrs. Oscar de la Torre), running for Santa Monica College Board of Trustees, from arriving late, sashaying to the front of the line with her two kids in tow and cutting in. “I shouldn’t be doing this,” she giggled.
No, Maria, you shouldn’t. It’s disrespectful to those who had been patiently waiting in line. Loya’s arrogance and rudeness didn’t go unnoticed and probably cost her some votes. Tee-hee.
Fellow Daily Press columnist Charles Andrews summarized the forum in his “Curious City” column last Wednesday (Page 4) and although we hadn’t conferred, I agree with most of his observations.
I never had the low opinion of Mayor Pam O’Connor that Andrews had. I never thought she was “evil,” but she is a righteous opportunist who extracts campaign contributions from developers with projects that require her (City Hall’s) approval.
It’s a slippery slope for a candidate – do developers donate to her because she’s pro development or is she backing developments solely in return for campaign contributions? In either case, O’Connor is ignoring her constituency.
Incumbent Kevin McKeown stood firmly on his record. He’s been slow growth and opposed many of the larger and more offensive developments that have been floated over his four terms on the dais.
McKeown said he’ll never take corporate (developer) political contributions – but he and all SMRR candidates strongly benefit from one of the nation’s largest labor unions: UNITE HERE.
This powerful hospitality workers union contributes large amounts of money and manpower to SMRR’s candidates. In return they support every new hotel development, minimum wage scales and push for unionization of hourly workers when elected. Unions or developers, they’re still all “corporate” interests.
Andrews wasn’t impressed with Jennifer Kennedy. Neither was I. A consummate SMRR insider, she boasted about how she had served the community by volunteering for SMRR for 15 years. She’s been well rewarded by SMRR honchos with a paid position and support for election to Rent Control Board and then an appointment to Planning Commission and now City Council. She’ll be a good SMRR order-taker if elected.
Poverty law attorney and planning commissioner Sue Himmelrich has SMRR power broker and co-founder Denny Zane managing her campaign.
Himmelrich, McKeown and Kennedy claim they’re for controlled development, but they are 100 percent for unlimited new “affordable” housing – the key SMRR platform plank.
There’s a contradiction here. Housing drives development and new hotels add to the problem.
Of the 30 plus development agreements awaiting approval, they’re almost all housing (apartment) projects ranging from 60 to 300 units. Nearly 4,000 apartments are approved or pending approval. Most of these will be built in the next five years. And, there’s more to come.
All of these projects will have low-income rental units. Will McKeown, Himmelrich and Kennedy (if elected) approve bad, oversized projects like East Village at the site of the Village Trailer Park or another Hines-type development when developers agree to add a few more low-income apartments? I say, “Absolutely!”
We’ll never control runaway development unless we limit new housing projects and hotels.
Andrews and I like Phil Brock, chair of the Recreation and Parks Commission. Slow growth Brock wants to return control of the community to residents. He criticized City Hall staff, Rod Gould and City Attorney Marsha Moutrie for favoring special interests over residents. Brock promised changes in administrative leadership, if elected. And, he isn’t indebted to developers or hotel unions.
Planning Commissioner Richard McKinnon said riding bicycles, walking or riding the bus will solve traffic problems. Attorney Frank Gruber wants to close the Santa Monica Airport and build a public park on the land. Both men are chasing rainbows.
It was a lively evening. Next week: let the campaigns begin.

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Bill can be reached at mr.bilbau@gmail.com

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