As a longtime affordable housing advocate and disabled resident of Santa Monica, I am disheartened, but not surprised to learn of the apparent corrupt practices and people who run the tenants’ rights organization: Santa Monica for Renter’s Rights (SMRR).
SMRR, which used to fight for renters’ rights and affordable housing, is now a shell of its former self and little more than window dressing for a political machine that not only tries to dissuade tenants from organizing, but rigs its endorsement process for the friends of former Mayor Denny Zane. Worse, it appears to be involved in a quid pro quo deal when it comes to who gets appointed to the Santa Monica Housing Commission.
It has come to my attention that SMRR seems to be rigging its nominating process for friends of Mr. Zane’s.
At their last “nominating meeting,” Denny’s handpicked candidate, Ms. Susan Himmelrich, whose campaign Mr. Zane is being paid to manage, did not make the cut when the vote was taken, coming in fourth place.
However, due to actions on the part of SMRR’s Steering Committee, Ms. Himmelrich miraculously got SMRR’s endorsement.
Shortly afterwards, SMRR received a $10,000 dollar donation from Ms. Himmelrich’s husband, Michael Soloff, who, it should be noted, was recently given a position on the Santa Monica Housing Commission, with Mr. Zane lobbying hard for the appointment.
I amnot accusing anyone of a crime, but I will say that there is the appearance of corruption and a quid pro quo, back-room deal that should give all supporters of SMRR serious pause for thought before they vote for any SMRR-endorsed candidates.
Adding insult to injury, my own recent interactions with the so-called tenants’ rights group has made me realize the organization is no longer worthy of its name.
I used to champion SMRR and was a friend of Mr. Zane’s until I began to organize a tenants’ association at my HUD building here in Santa Monica.
We needed to organize a tenants’ association, because the building’s management company had negligently ‘repaired’ an air vent on the roof and in the process trapped hundreds of birds under the roof.As they died off, their weight and excrement caused the ceiling to collapse — almost killing one of our senior residents.It was so bad that the fighter fighters called in the Hazardous Material team before entering the building.
I turned to SMRR for help.To my dismay, their lead organizer not only was no help, he actively tried to dissuade me from organizing. I was informed the City never meets with tenant’s groups and was told to “Stop bothering” Council Member Kevin McKeown who I had also asked for help.
When I challenged their organizer, he broke down in tears and ended the conversation.
So much for SMRR watching out for renters’ rights.
In spite of SMRR, we organized our Association and met with HUD officials and the City Attorney — in our Community Room!
Shortly thereafter, the management company was gone.
Once a great organization, SMRR now needs to be reformed and the likes of Mr. Zane and Mr. Mckeown need to be cast aside, if not investigated.
Shawn Casey O’Brien