Feeding the Beast

Ballot time is around the corner and once again Santa Monica property owners are being asked to foot the bill for a project meant to benefit the entire community. This time it is for a program by the city council to develop more “affordable housing,” apparently indefinitely. The term “affordable housing” we understand to be a political euphemism – polite speak – for what is in reality subsidized housing.
Ongoing development of “affordable housing” is being enthusiastically backed by most city council members and candidates, as well as by Santa Monicans for Renters Rights (SMRR), in spite of deep concerns expressed by homeowners and other residents regarding overdevelopment in our city. As evidenced by their actions over the past many years, our city council has repeatedly favored development over the interests of homeowners in order to please SMRR – as well as hotel worker and other unions. More “affordable housing” after all means a bigger and more influential SMRR.
Measure H would raise funds by tripling the tax the city currently charges on the sale of properties with a value of over $1 million (from $3 to $9 per $1,000 of value). An accompanying measure – HH – would dedicate those funds to build “affordable housing.” By separating the measures, a two-thirds voter approval requirement has been avoided.
If passed, city hall could collect over $14 million yearly from property transfer taxes. Make no mistake here, approval of Measure H will mean significantly more development in our city – more traffic congestion, more noise and pollution and more stress on our infrastructure and water resources. It will add to the numbers of residents in our city that cannot afford to pay the costs of living here.
Why are property owners being tapped to pay the bill for this ongoing development program? Property owners already pay thousands of dollars yearly on top of their property taxes through extra levies and assessments for the community college, the school district, emergency services and even for cleaning up the beach – costs not assessed to renters. Perhaps property owners in Santa Monica have become easy prey whenever funding is needed, considering a home ownership ratio in our city of only around 30 percent – a ratio that favors approval of spending projects by a built-in majority who are not required to share the cost.
Our city government has long been dedicated to controlling housing rents for the benefit of some of our residents. Now it is time for it to focus on controlling taxes on housing for the rest of us.
By the way, only three of the 15-or-so candidates running for city council have indicated that they do not support Measure M. They are Phil Brock, Whitney Scott Bain, and Terrence Later.
Faustino Garza
Santa Monica

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