Mayor Kevin McKeown

Kevin McKeown is running for City Council. The following answers were submitted in response to questions from the Daily Press.

Name: Kevin McKeown

Age: 66

Occupation: For twenty years now, Apple technology consultant for Santa Monica’s public schools.

Neighborhood: Wilshire/Montana, where I was Chair of the Wilshire/Montana Neighborhood Coalition (neighborhood group now known as Wilmont) before being elected to the City Council.

Own/Rent: Over 38 years in the same rent-controlled apartment.

Marital status: Snuggled and cuddled with my wife Genise.

Kids: Helped raise one, Samohi 2002, in a previous relationship.

Political affiliation: Democrat of the Year in our Assembly District, 2014.

Schooling: Parochial grammar school, public high school, New England prep school (scholarship), Yale (scholarship)

Highest degree attained: Left Yale before degree for rock ‘n’ roll radio, my first career.

Hobbies: Traveling, photography, writing software.

Reading list: Constituent emails and letters.

How do you get to work? I work here in Santa Monica, so: walk, bike, 13-year-old Prius.

Favorite place to have a quick, 1 on 1 meeting in Santa Monica? 18th Street Coffee House.

Favorite dinner spot: Swingers.

Last sporting event you attended: I don’t attend sporting events.

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’m running for re-election on my consistent record of responsiveness to residents, and my ongoing work to protect renters from eviction and harassment.

I’ll continue protecting our neighborhoods and quality of life, preserving Santa Monica’s charm and character, limiting heights, and reducing commercial over saturation that brings traffic.

Our hometown is in the crosshairs of overdevelopment. I’ve proven that I know how, and when, to say “no” to bad projects. I opposed the mass eviction of almost fifty rent-controlled households at 301 Ocean. I voted against the shameful eviction of vulnerable seniors at Village Trailer Park. And, of course, I voted against the oversized, traffic-generating Hines project.

Two years ago I introduced the option of closing the airport in 2015, possibly for a park. I’ll continue to pioneer a sustainable city. I’ve supported fair wages, and truly affordable housing for working families. My commitment to excellent public education is unmatched: I work for our local schools in the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District.

For sixteen years I’ve always been there for our neighborhoods, and for our neighbors. I helped our Northeast Neighbors with protecting A-lots, Sunset Park with the airport, Mid-City with car dealers, and NOMA with monster mansions. I’ve worked with Wilmont on the elimination of the 14th and Wilshire activity center, and on closing a troublesome rogue sports bar – as well as with OPA on the abuses at Edgemar, and Pico with new zoning protections against gentrification and displacement.

I want to keep working for you for another four years, and therefore ask for your support and your vote.

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 are 1: location, 2: people, and 3: sustainability.

1: We risk squandering our unique and valuable location through overdevelopment. I never forget that our defining characteristic is the beach.

Santa Monica voters already, 24 years ago, wisely prohibited further hotel and other intensification west of Ocean Avenue. Now our struggle as stewards of our seaside location is with developers who want to impose tall hotel/condo towers on the ocean edge of downtown.

I was the only Councilmember who voted against the Miramar’s over-sized proposal at “float-up.” I remain opposed to its unacceptable massing and increased height.

The Miramar is not alone in threatening to raise our seaside skyline. All three of the hotel projects as currently proposed would be out of scale for Ocean Avenue.

I’m the staunchest defender of our coast against unwanted high-rise development. I particularly oppose placing luxury skybox condos on top of hotels so the extremely wealthy can usurp our ocean views. I will protect our coast from overdevelopment, but I need more slow-growth allies on the City Council.

In June, I proposed that because our coastline is so uniquely important to us, any development exceeding our zoning on Ocean Avenue must go to a vote of residents before being built, not merely be green-lighted by a pro-growth City Council majority. My motion to empower residents did not even garner a second, and died without discussion.

2: Santa Monica’s second great strength is those very people I want to empower. We have an educated, engaged population, distributed through varied neighborhoods, each with its own identity.

I’ve long been a supporter of neighborhood activism, and have made myself available to neighborhood groups as an information resource and advisor on process. In our new zoning code, I have already made adjustments to protect existing neighborhoods from commercial intrusion and from losing neighbors, victims of displacement due to rising land values and gentrification.

Residents, whether members of an organized group or not, know they can call on me for help on any matter, big or small. I help renters threatened with eviction, and homeowners with trash-pickup issues. For the people of Santa Monica, one of our three great strengths, I am accessible, responsive, and effective.

3: Our last great strength is sustainability. We have policies in place to keep Santa Monica sustainable environmentally, socially, and economically.

I was City Council liaison to the Santa Monica Task Force on the Environment for over ten years, and have done intensive work on updating and improving Santa Monica’s Sustainable City Plan.

I championed our pioneering Sustainability Rights Ordinance, which gives residents grounds to sue environmentally insensitive corporations to protect “groundwater aquifers, atmospheric systems, marine waters, and native species within the boundaries of the City.”

Santa Monica provides a broad and deep range of public services to keep our city socially sustainable and to promote social and economic justice.

Perhaps most evidently significant is our generous support for public education, assisted by the voters’ approval of Measures Y and YY four years ago, for which I advocated strongly. Our city now helps fund public schools in the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District with over $14 million annually in direct payment. Our young people also benefit, in and out of school, from nearly $50 million a year in youth programs run by and/or funded by the City.

Senior citizens get support from the City of Santa Monica to allow them to age in place. Homeless people can avail themselves of help to get off the streets permanently. Arts and culture are funded in Santa Monica at levels most communities can only dream of.

The third form of sustainability, economic sustainability, is essential to enable us to fund all our worthwhile programs. Santa Monica is a national model of progressive activism built on a foundation of prudent budgeting.

Our revenues are drawn from five major sources, so that a temporary setback in any one will not threaten our ability to fund City services. We have prepaid significant upcoming obligations, including rising costs such as pensions, to save money and assure stability. Our fiscal practices are considered so sustainable that we have a rare triple-A bond rating, which means greater yields.

But yes, Santa Monica also does have some weaknesses.

1: We are sometimes overwhelmed by the very economic engine that makes our success possible. 2: Residents sometimes forget our common interests, and allow civic discourse to become unproductively divisive. 3: We face daunting failures of urban infrastructure.

1: Most cities would kill to have our first problem: More development money wants to come into Santa Monica than we can accept, without compromising the kind of town we are and want to remain. Every day, we accommodate a visitor/employee population far greater than the total number of Santa Monica residents.

I will continue my commitment to thoughtful slow growth, demanding that we weigh cumulative impacts, not just individual projects. I’ll make sure that developers live up to their promises to residents, and deliver meaningful benefits that are of value not only to all Santa Monicans but particularly to the neighbors in closest proximity.

As a beach town, we have always welcomed visitors. It is harder to welcome the traffic and other impacts caused by the massive daily migrations in and our of our city. I will work to reduce some of the employee commuting by creating appropriately priced housing so local workers can live locally. I’ll continue to create mobility options for tourism visitors so they don’t need to have or use a car while visiting us in Santa Monica.

2: Collaborative, fact-based discussion among residents is key to solving our community problems. When frustration leads to mistrust and hostility, successful cooperation becomes less likely.

I have always worked to make sure residents not only have a place at the table in policy discussions, but also are provided with full background information to empower creative problem-solving. To this end, I’m a regular attendee at the monthly meetings of the Neighborhood Council, and have unstintingly provided direct City Hall access to those who might otherwise have felt unheard.

3: Our third great weakness is insufficient urban infrastructure. Part of this is inherent in our greatest strength, location.

For instance, our roads are inadequate for demand. Because we sit happily on the beaches of Santa Monica Bay, most traffic in and out of Santa Monica must enter and exit through the east end of the city. At the same time, our local north-south streets are overloaded, in part because fifty years ago Interstate 10 divided our city, and only a few streets bridge the freeway.

I’ve already taken pains to avoid repeating the freeway mistake with the coming light rail, insisting that trains run at-grade “with traffic,” using existing signals rather than dividing the city with a massive concrete elevated structure, or blocking arterials with crossing gates that impede north-south travel. We still must remain vigilant against an Expo Line policy preference for “safety fencing” that would block access across Colorado Avenue.

Recently a significant swath of Sunset Park suffered an electrical power outage that not only darkened homes, but created a surge that destroyed home appliances and other personal property. We have had power vault explosions in downtown. Clearly, an aging electrical infrastructure is showing its inadequacy.

I am working with community activists and the city’s Office of Sustainability and the Environment to create what is called Community Choice Aggregation, where we can own our own power system and choose to use renewable-source electricity, not the “dirty power” provided by commercial utilities. Based on work I did fifteen years ago, all City facilities already use exclusively renewable power – wouldn’t you like to have that choice?

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?

In the past five years, despite the Great Recession, the number of homeless people suffering on Santa Monica streets has decreased by 20%. That is very significant progress.

No one small city can ever solve a regional and national disgrace, the result of decades of social safety nets allowed to fray and fail. Still, we cannot walk away from this issue. We have to put our heads and hearts toward solving it.

I’ve been active on homelessness since the ’80s, and, with the adoption of our 2008 “Action Plan,” began shifting our efforts from temporary support to ongoing, truly transformative change.

I helped move outdoor feeding programs indoors, where people were treated with dignity and connected with services – not just fed for a few hours. I championed the concept of “housing first,” which actually saves us money by reducing emergency calls.

I will continue our concerted effort to focus City services and resources on the most vulnerable homeless individuals, while encouraging all people without homes to avail themselves of offered services, allowing them to become more stable, to move into appropriate housing, and to remain housed. Our efforts have proven effective, humane, and socially sustainable over time.

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?

We confront an affordable-housing emergency, for which Measures H and HH provide a practical answer. The loss of state redevelopment revenue leaves us with a pressing need to find new revenues for housing, which is now unfunded.

The Council asked staff how we could replace at least part of the $68 million in redevelopment funds the state has taken away from us, and, most urgently, the portion of that money that supports our production of truly affordable

housing. Staff came back with an increase on a fee that is already charged on all real-estate transactions, not just home sales. This will generate a significant amount of revenue from commercial property transactions, and will not be charged on sales under a million dollars, reducing the impact on home sales.

Measures H and HH come at a point when home prices have rebounded from the Great Recession, and, further, the transfer tax is part of a package of closing costs negotiated between buyer and seller. This is not a recurring tax like a parcel tax, paid every year by someone who owns property. This transfer fee is charged only when a sale happens. If someone continues to live in their Santa Monica home, they pay nothing.

Why do we need to do this? Because not being able to fund affordable housing programs going forward would harm our entire community in numerous unacceptable ways.

If there’s no housing in Santa Monica affordable at a local employee’s income level, even after stretching the household budget, they are forced to live elsewhere. People who work in Santa Monica, but live somewhere else, must commute – adding to our traffic problems.

Many of our jobs in Santa Monica, even for someone working full-time, yield only moderate or even low incomes. For those working families, the market-rate rents may be too high. Our current affordable housing policies focus on multi-bedroom, family housing.

Santa Monica also has a responsibility to persons with disabilities, and others on limited fixed incomes, including seniors. The demand for appropriate housing, at low- and very-low income levels, is even higher than for working families, because market-rate rents are even farther out of reach.

We try to make sure new affordable housing never displaces existing housing, and that our affordable units are made available to people with personal, family, school, or employment ties to Santa Monica.

Current Santa Monica policy is that people who lose their homes in Santa Monica, through the Ellis Act or other no-fault evictions, go to the very top of our housing priority list. Other Santa Monicans – people who already work here, seniors, and persons with disabilities – are also given priority.

We produce new affordable housing in several ways. The best is to directly subsidize the building of new housing or the rehabilitation of existing housing by a non-profit provider like Community Corporation of Santa Monica (CCSM, which specializes in family housing) or FAME Santa Monica (which provides housing for seniors). That, however, is just not enough. CCSM, for instance, has only about a hundred open apartments per year, and three- to five-thousand applicants! We need to do more.

Santa Monica also has what is called “inclusionary zoning.” This requires that a developer of market-rate housing must include a certain percentage of affordable housing in every project. The exact requirement varies. A developer might build a certain number of low-income units, or make an equivalent commitment to fewer, but more affordable, very-low income units.

Yet another source is the inclusion of affordable housing in development agreements as a community benefit. Because the number of units is negotiated, it makes sense to at least replace the existing affordable housing that was lost – at the same level of protected affordability – and produce more if possible. The current Council majority, however, has lacked the political will to make developers deliver.

As I said at the outset, Sacramento has shut down redevelopment agencies, cutting off one of the prime revenue sources that for many years made affordable housing in Santa Monica possible. Relying on the small percentage of affordability gained from market-rate developers isn’t enough, and can encourage overdevelopment. We now must seek dependable, independent funding that we control locally, so we can continue to create the affordable housing we need.

The answer is Measures H and HH. Please vote YES on both.

Is Measure FS fair to all residents?

Of all the rent-controlled cities in California, Santa Monica is the only one where, until recently, renters bore the entire burden of paying for rent-control administration.

Measure FS allows the Rent Control Board to remain active and vigilant, ensuring just treatment for both tenants and landlords, while actually lowering the amount renters pay.

The work of the Rent Board stabilizes housing, protects rights, enforces responsibilities for landlords and tenants alike, and benefits our entire community. Yes, it is fair; it is fair to share.

Measure “FS” stands for “Fair Share,” and it deserves your vote YES.

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?

I am a champion of Santa Monica’s stewardship of our own water resources, which historically are a major factor in why we remained an independent city.

When oil companies tainted our municipal aquifers with MTBe from leaking gas stations, I supported our exceptional efforts to force those corporations to make us whole and fund treatment plants that restored our water independence. We won a lawsuit giving us hundreds of millions of dollars, and we are now back to using our own water.

I am an active proponent of Santa Monica’s program to become fully water self-sufficient, without creating undue hardship for those who’ve already conscientiously practiced water conservation and significantly cut their water usage. I will insist that anything built in Santa Monica is dramatically more water-conserving than the buildings that have gone before, which were conceived and constructed in a more water-abundant time.

Santa Monica needs affordable housing, not commercial development, and our experience so far has shown that renters are highly motivated to help us reduce water usage, even if they themselves don’t directly pay an individual water bill.

When we considered changes to water rates recently, I specifically asked that we bring business targets in line with residential goals, with the same targeted reduction of 20%. We are not mandating cuts in water use across the board, which would unduly penalize those who’ve already reduced their water usage. Instead we will further adjust thoughtfully tiered pricing, so that water wasters will see significant financial impacts from their profligate usage. Water savers will pay less.

We will be redoubling our efforts within the City’s own systems to use recycled water, where we have already been a leader in water-wise practices for parks, landscaping, etc. We will retrofit the Santa Monica Urban Runoff Recycling Facility to increase capacity and reclaim more water when large amounts of runoff are available. I will help move us toward water sustainability based on reduced use, increased conservation, and careful stewardship of our aquifer and of water that can be claimed locally through runoff capture.

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

Santa Monica voters told us unequivocally what role the City Council is to play, when we passed Measure R in 1990:

“The City Council by ordinance shall at all times require that not less than thirty percent (30%) of all multifamily-residential housing newly constructed in the City on an annual basis is permanently affordable to and occupied by low and moderate income households.”

I’m proud to have been part of a team that has succeeded in meeting that voter mandate during the sixteen years I’ve been on the City Council, but now our primary revenue stream, redevelopment funding, has been taken from us by Sacramento. Success going forward will be more challenging. At this point, we have no affordable units in the construction pipeline for the coming year.

One of the reasons we need affordable housing is to accommodate the employees of businesses in new commercial developments, who often don’t earn wages sufficient to raise their families near where they work. These commuters then clog our roads, exacerbating our traffic problems.

Within the last month, the current City Council had the opportunity to establish a fee on new commercial development that would have paid for at least some of the needed affordable housing.

Charging developers a fixed fee to compensate our community for the housing needs that their commercial projects create is, one would think, an obvious way to protect residents. The historic pattern, though, has been granting developers sweetheart deals with minimal benefits for our community in terms of needed housing.

A consultant recommended we charge only one twentieth of what our own studies showed was justified. I fought for the higher level of fee supported by our Housing Commission. In the end, the current Council majority went with the sweetheart deal for developers, again.

“I would like to see a higher yield from commercial projects that get built,” I said at that Council meeting, “and if that means that fewer commercial projects get built or if they take longer because we have to wait for a developer who is better capitalized or, frankly, who has a better, more profitable project, I don’t think the residents of the city would be terribly dismayed if there were less commercial development as a result.”

If residents agree, I hope you will join me on Election Day in shifting the Council majority to one that shares that more pro-resident point of view.

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 Airport seen from above is an aircraft carrier afloat in a sea of homes. No one would ever put it there now, with inadequate runway buffers, closer to more homes than any other airport in the country. Sustainability and safety both argue for closing the airport.

Airport special interests who want to squat forever on Santa Monica’s land have mounted a deceptive campaign, trying to trick voters, stoking and manipulating fears of development. I played a major role in rewording the Local Control Measure LC to make sure it was unequivocal about retaining our right to close the airport without the possibility of any development not approved by a vote of our residents, who own the land.

Our City Manager recently told the Council that the Airport has about the same employment and economic yield as a medium-size strip mall. Those meager benefits clearly don’t balance the safety, air pollution, and other impacts of having a jetport inappropriately sited in a residential neighborhood.

Safety and sanity argue we must curtail, and perhaps end, current operations at the airport, to the extent allowed by law. My record shows I will take action to protect residents, and assert our community’s control over the airport land we own.

In 2007, I was the first Councilmember to endorse Ted Lieu’s bill on SMO pollution. That same year, I made the motion to ban Class C and D jet aircraft from SMO’s unsafely short runway.

In 2010, it was my idea to have the South Coast Air Quality Management District take air quality readings during a four-day closure for runway repaving, which

yielded factual data revealing that SMO aircraft operations increased certain air pollution indices for nearby neighborhoods by factors of twelve to seventeen.

In May of 2012 I added full closure into the list of options the City Council directed the staff to explore. In 2013, I made the motion to increase landing fees, including for flight schools, which has reduced pattern flying significantly.

This year, 2014, it was again my motion to NOT extend airport leases, and return the matter to the Airport Commission.

I want to be on the Council when the 1984 Agreement expires next year to continue fighting for residents’ interests. To retain our rights, please vote NO on Measure D, and YES on Measure LC.

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?

For large projects covered by Development Agreements, the Council will always have final say on negotiated agreements – but this won’t benefit residents, if the Councilmembers in office at the time defer to developers, as has happened too often recently.

Having specific mandatory community-benefit requirements in our zoning ordinances makes it harder for the Council to accept less from a project, even under a Development Agreement. I want such hard-and-fast rules, to avoid negotiating away potential benefits from a developer who has been generous with campaign donations to certain Councilmembers, or who tells a convincing tale of financial hardship. All too often, those alleged hardships have magically turned into highly profitable sales of the entitled properties soon after the Council bestowed approvals.

What constitutes a community benefit should be up to the community. We have held a series of public hearings where so far the consensus appears to include reduced traffic and reduced greenhouse gas emissions, truly affordable housing for Santa Monicans, wage-guaranteed jobs for local workers, community improvements that significantly benefit the adjacent neighborhood, historic preservation, and social/cultural/educational facilities.

No community benefit, or amount of community benefits, can ever make a bad project worth voting for. Some suggested benefits, like creative architecture, are project benefits, enhancing the value of the development, not community benefits.

I will insist that agreed-upon community benefits always include some that are of direct and compensatory benefit to the immediate neighborhood, which bears the brunt of development impacts.

What is your definition of overdevelopment and what is your plan to prevent it?

Overdevelopment happens when growth exceeds the capacity of the infrastructure, causes impacts on the surrounding community that cannot be justified by the benefits of the development, or disrespects the community’s own sense of cityscape design, including excessive height or failure to include appropriate transitions from commercial areas into residential neighborhoods.

I have always voted against plans and projects that in my view constituted overdevelopment. However, as shown by the heights added to the LUCE, the evictions at Village Trailer Park, and the approval of the over-sized and traffic-generating Hines project, my one vote is not enough when the Council majority isn’t listening to residents.

My plan to prevent overdevelopment is to shift the majority on the City Council, by helping to elect new, dependable slow-growth allies.

Because overdevelopment is such a hotly-contested issue right now, it comes down to two Planning Commissioners, experienced and trustworthy to represent residents, not special interests: Jennifer Kennedy and Sue Himmelrich.

Both Jennifer and Sue, like me, have pledged not to take campaign contributions from hotels or developers – or, for that matter, any corporate contributions.

Jennifer Kennedy served eight years as an elected member of the Rent Board. What’s more, she has a rock-solid slow-growth record on the Planning Commission, which she chaired for the past year. Having worked closely with Jennifer for over a decade, I can personally attest that she is the real deal, and completely trustworthy to represent residents’ interests.

Sue Himmelrich is a lawyer with the Western Center on Law and Poverty, and became involved with me and others in fighting the shameful eviction of vulnerable seniors from the Village Trailer Park (one of those 4-3 decisions where the community lost). Sue also opposed the Hines project, which eventually had to be stopped by referendum.

Jennifer Kennedy’s and Sue Himmelrich’s work on the Planning Commission shows they’ll never compromise their policies in response to developer seduction, as we’ve seen happen with other Councilmembers after they were elected.

It is unusual for a Councilmember to come out in advance of the election in a crowded field and make such strong recommendations. For too many years I have watched candidates promise one thing and later, after convincing residents to elect them, vote another way. There are candidates in the mix this year whom I cannot be sure of – but I am 100% confident in recommending Jennifer Kennedy and Sue Himmelrich. They are the two we can trust to stop overdevelopment and always put residents’ interests first.

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?

Hines, a massive corporate developer, was overconfident of winning highly profitable land-use approvals based on cozy relationships with a majority on the City Council, including one member whose campaign debt Hines had quietly retired. Based on reliance that their path was assured, they may have paid too much for a deserted ballpoint-pen factory and the underlying land.

The Planning Commission and our city staff tried to negotiate the Hines proposal down to a more acceptable size, but the developer held to their original plans, knowing that only the City Council could really strike the deal. They were right about the Council majority’s willingness to say yes, even though what Hines proposed was really five projects under one Development Agreement, with scarce assurance that the later phases involving housing and open space would ever get built.

The Council majority ignored the prospect of dire traffic consequences and the insultingly low percentage of desperately needed affordable housing being offered by Hines. The unworthy project passed 4 to 3.

Oops. Hines (and some Councilmembers) forgot the residents! In response, Santa Monicans went out and gathered far more than enough signatures to force a referendum, and the project was finally killed.

The site should not and will not remain an abandoned factory. Trying to justify the failed project, some voiced veiled threats of turning the long-vacant factory into offices. Such a spite conversion could not happen under current zoning and parking requirements. At some point, I believe, Hines will regroup with a more sensible proposal, or sell the land to someone with a more community-friendly vision.

Repeats of Hines-style disasters can be averted by electing a City Council accountable to residents, not developers. Greater transparency regarding campaign financing will help. Look for candidates who simply do not accept corporate or developer campaign contributions.

What are your guiding principals for evaluating development in Santa Monica?

The problem has been approving too much, too fast, without adequate, thoughtful analysis of cumulative impacts, and without balancing potential gain against certain loss. This is not the fault of developers, who are out to make money, or of City staff, who do the bidding of the City Council elected by residents.

With over thirty potential Development Agreements lined up out the door and around the corner, it should be clear that we in Santa Monica are fortunate enough to be able to pick and choose carefully which projects we allow to move forward.

Saying “no” is not a highly developed skill at City Hall. We need to add a polite “no, thanks” to our land-use lexicon. Turning away a bad or mediocre project spares our community decades of post-construction regret. When an unsuitable project gets built anyway, the developer leaves town enriched, but we who call this our home suffer the impacts.

Instead, if Santa Monica elects a City Council willing to wait for truly superior projects, we can up our game, and create a community distinguished both by real improvements for our residents, and by a style and quality of life that attracts an even higher level of future opportunities.

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

If we want to keep our services and quality of life, we first have to balance what we want against what we have to give up to get it. I would suggest that trying to buy greater quality of life by generating revenue from overdevelopment – that destroys our quality of life – won’t work. I think many residents agree.

We need to appreciate what we already have, as a highly successful city able to provide services that are the envy of residents elsewhere, whose cities are going bankrupt.

Certainly we don’t want to slide backwards into stagnation and loss of services. Yet, at some point, we have to question the assumption that never-ending development and urban growth is the only way to generate the revenue we need.

We have untapped resources, like so-called “split roll” property tax reform that would retain full Prop 13 protections for homeowners, but force commercial properties to be reassessed more frequently and pay their fair share of property taxes. One of the most egregious examples of legal property-tax evasion is right here in Santa Monica, the Miramar Hotel property owned by billionaire computer manufacturer Michael Dell.

What are the top skills, abilities and personality traits you will look for in a new city manager?

Over sixteen years, I have worked with four City Managers and helped hire three, both from within and without. Each was chosen to fulfill the needs our City had at the time of their hiring.

We are now out of the Great Recession, and our next City Manager needs to be someone who can help us rediscover residents’ shared vision for our community, and help the City Council shift priorities to fulfill that vision.

We need a listener, who can translate aspirations into actions. We need a collaborator, who can engage everyone who’s willing to help make this a better city. We need a communicator, who can inspire trust by making sure information is quickly available, clear to understand, and presented with the utmost transparency.

A City Manager for Santa Monica runs a complicated municipal corporation, and needs to skillfully assess department head performance, fiscal needs, and public safety responsibilities. This is an intense assignment that requires intelligence, commitment, perspective, and integrity.

Our search will be diligent and thorough. Being City Manager of Santa Monica is a career capper. It’s a job demanding, and worthy of, the very best in the field. We will find and hire her or him.

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

I am always hesitant to lay lack of transparency at the feet of staff. Our city staff works at the direction of the City Council, and sometimes less-than-full disclosure of needed information may be because of behind-the-scenes pressure to protect political interests.

That said, the only decisions I’ve regretted have been those based on incomplete or inaccurate information, so this is hugely important to me. Our standard has to be absolute: complete, unflinching, accurate facts, all the time, conveyed willingly and devoid of spin. Surely any long-time observer of City Hall can point to instances where we have fallen short.

Mistakes happen. As Alexander Pope wrote in his Essay on Criticism, “To err is human.” Certainly criticism is easy, and sometimes deserved, but what we must expect is not perfection but consistent good-faith effort to provide all information with complete accuracy.

In the rare occasion where inaccuracy is deliberate, I would have a no-tolerance rule. The public’s business demands forthrightness and honesty.

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?

Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights has a thirty-five year history. It is the longest-lived municipal grassroots progressive political organization anywhere in our country.

Many of us simply would not be here without SMRR and rent control. It may be easy to overlook, too, how different Santa Monica might look had SMRR not taken on the California growth machine. Appreciate the difference in height and density on Wilshire Boulevard either side of Centinela, our Santa Monica border with West L.A. Those high-rises would have marched right down to the sea had not SMRR downzoned Santa Monica during its first years in power.

Yes, the SMRR endorsement has sometimes gone to pro-growthers. The SMRR platform, though, written and ratified by the membership, calls for “…protecting the community from excessive development and the traffic it generates. SMRR is committed to protecting residential neighborhoods from intensification of nearby commercial development.”

Notably, SMRR has now abandoned the pro-growthers (or, some might say, the pro-growthers have abandoned the SMRR platform).

The current slate of candidates supported by SMRR, including me, Jennifer Kennedy, and Sue Himmelrich, is resolutely slow-growth. What’s more, we also support the rest of SMRR’s progressive platform: renters’ rights, affordable housing, education and youth services, public safety, senior services, the arts, parks and open space, workers’ rights, social justice, public participation, and environmental sustainability.

Residocracy has already shown formidable grassroots strength by gathering enough signatures in less than three weeks to force a reluctant Council majority to rescind the Development Agreement for the Hines project. Along with Jennifer Kennedy and Sue Himmelrich, I worked with them on that.

Remember, however, that Residocracy, as a political formation, is barely ten months old. It has not had time yet to write a platform, nor chart a course for its future influence on Santa Monica decision making outside of the development arena.

I would say two of Residocracy’s themes resonate very strongly with me: slow growth and resident involvement. How we expand these into a comprehensive vision for our community’s future remains to be seen.

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?

Most Santa Monica businesses do very well, enjoying many of the same benefits from being in Santa Monica that residents enjoy. I’ve supported more business-friendly signage and display rules for Main Street, Pico, and Montana, our more neighborhood-serving commercial areas.

Our emergence as a major tech center is gratifying to me because many years ago I was on Santa Monica’s Telecommunications Task Force, and helped write our master plan to install internet-ready fiber under city streets for future use. We are now able to provide local businesses with super-fast 100 Gigabit connectivity, with absolute net neutrality – no access denial, and no throttling.

City Hall “buys local,” just as we urge residents to do: I instituted a City policy favoring local businesses for City bids. We use our local newpaper, the Daily Press, for legal and other announcements.

I’ve helped save small resident-serving businesses like neighborhood food markets and Montana Avenue’s 75-year-old Aero Theatre.

I also ended the City tax on small home businesses. This should encourage small entrepreneurs, and allow a more sustainable, family-friendly lifestyle. People working at home don’t have to drive so much, relieving traffic congestion, and they tend to shop and dine close to home. Keeping Santa Monica dollars in Santa Monica benefits us all.

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