Michael Feinstein is running for City Council. The following answers were submitted in response to questions from the Daily Press.
Name: Michael Feinstein
Neighborhood: Ocean Park
Marital status: Single
Political affiliation: Co-founder, Green Party of California
Schooling: St. Louis Park High School, St. Louis Park, MN. Carleton College, Northfield, MN
Highest degree attained: Bachelor of Arts, Philosophy Major
Hobbies: world travel, hiking, roller-blading, national parks, tropical beaches
Reading list: I’m currently reading the following five books – Uncertain Path A Search for the Future of National Parks. By William Tweed. Africa, A Biography of the Continent. By John Reader. News For All the People: The Epic Story of Race and the American Media. By Juan Gonz√°lez and Joseph Torres. Drone Warfare, Killing by Remove Control. By Media Benjamin. Family of Secrets: the Bush Dynasty. By Russ Baker.
How do you get to work? Work at home
Favorite place to have a quick, 1 on 1 meeting in Santa Monica? Perry’s Caf√©, outdoors at the beach at the end of Hollister Ave. The surrounding natural beauty is breathtaking.
Favorite dinner spot: My kitchen, I’m a great cook.
Last sporting event you attended: Lakers
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 a 30-year Santa Monica resident, and former two-term City Councilmember and Mayor. I have a strong record as a positive, creative, solutions-oriented – and high-achieving officeholder – who can communicate with everyone and get things done.
I want to plan for the greatness of tomorrow, today. I played key roles in the creation of Tongva Park, Annenberg Public Beach Club, and Virginia Ave. Park youth center buildings.
I see great new public spaces – from converting Santa Monica Airport into a park, to creating parkland over segments of the I-10 freeway – providing new, green breathable open space in our city.
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 our location and the beauty of our natural environment; the strength and vibrancy of our local democracy/our public participation in civic affairs; and the high standards we set for ourselves as a community.
Our primary weakness is our exposure to macro-economic forces that can overrun us.
The more we promote our strengths, the more we protect against our weaknesses.
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?
Homelessness is a societal tragedy. Its roots are primarily regional and national – and there is no ‘solving’ it on the local level.
Santa Monica has been responsible and compassionate in dedicating significant resources to help homeless people off of the street into more stable/productive lives – and the number of people on our streets has gone down significantly over the last 15 years. That’s part of why it’s not a more common topic in this year’s election, combined with the community’s focus on development.
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?
Santa Monica has a long commitment to affordable housing, to promote a diverse community, and to a jobs/housing balance to reduce traffic and pollution, by allowing people to live closer to work.
Gov. Brown took away redevelopment money we used to achieve this goal. Measure H is a local effort to ‘backfill’ a small portion of this.
The nexus for H is that (1) higher end housing creates demand for lower income service jobs and therefore worker housing, and that (2) H captures a portion of the community-created value of land and returns it to the community to preserve and expand affordable housing supply.
Is Measure FS fair to all residents?
Measure FS modestly increases the portion of the registration fee paid by landlords that funds the Rent Control Department, but caps the total amount that could be charged. The increase is not unreasonable, given that Santa Monica’s affordable housing stock has been decimated by vacancy decontrol under the Costa-Hawkins Act, with over 20,000 formerly affordable units have gone to new, substantially higher market rates, with the profits that follow.
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?
To promote increased conservation/demand reduction, expand climate appropriate plants, drip irrigation, and retrofit indoor plumbing. To minimize potable water use/waste, use recycled water for flushing – and lobby the state legislature to make it easier to use greywater overall.
To expand supply, increase stormwater capture; harvest rainwater with cisterns, retain older trees that absorb and retain rainwater; and increase regional recycled water from El Segundo, which we can access.
To increase storage, create large underground cisterns and recharge basins underneath 4th/Pico when the parking lot there is converted into green space, and at SMO when it becomes a park.
What should City Hall’s role be when it comes to the creation of affordable housing?
The City can and should promote affordable housing through development agreements, inclusionary housing, in-lieu fees and with local/state/federal public funding public funds – to produce new affordable housing and to purchase/rehab/deed-restrict existing affordable units.
We should increase our emphasis upon two and three bedroom family units, affordable housing for very-low, low and moderate levels, and ensure workforce housing is made available to those already working here.
The city should also lobby for state legislation to restore state funding for affordable housing, something Governor Brown said he’d support when he took away redevelopment agency funds.
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?
The city has the legal authority to close Santa Monica Airport (SMO) and convert into a park. It’s our land – we own it – because we residents purchased the land with a park bond in 1926.
Money spent on litigation to secure our ownership/planning rights to land we own, particularly a 227 acre parcel worth perhaps several billion dollars, is a good investment of public funds.
I enthusiastically support converting SMO into a park. Other complimentary considerations should include cutting edge solar energy production; underground water runoff/storage and expanding/synergizing the arts/cultural/educational uses on the south side.
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?
High environmental and labor standards should be seen as a basic performance standard in Santa Monica, not as an optional community benefits.
A development agreement is a voluntary agreement between the City and an applicant, so a benefits package must come from that mutual negotiation. A general list of other community benefits is helpful for guidance, but each project is distinct, and the public process must include careful consideration of appropriate benefits in each case.
As we’ve seen with several referenda in our city’s history, final control ultimately includes the voters.
What is your definition of overdevelopment and what is your plan to prevent it?
Overdevelopment means “too much” and “out of balance.” In Santa Monica, we have too much automobile traffic, our jobs/housing ratio is out of balance – and the two are related.
We also live in an area of extraordinary nature beauty and many advantages that we need to cherish and protect. My goal is to meet changing needs of changing times without further losing our beach town character, and to address imbalances from poor past planning, to promote community and enhances our quality of life. I have the experience and political skills to do it and a record to prove it.
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?
The Hines project was both a great success and failure of the public process – a success because 13,000 residents spoke through the referendum tool – but a failure because it never needed to get to that point.
The approved LUCE and Bergamot Area plan suggested such development was appropriate. Then consideration of the Hines project led the community to conclude the proposed scale and jobs/housing balance was wrong.
At that point, a lack of political work and communication meant discussions never happened that might have amended the project. After November, Hines should consider a revised project responsive to community concerns.
What are your guiding principals for evaluating development in Santa Monica?
How does it affect our natural environment? Our beach town feel? Does it promote sustainability, equity and opportunity in the community?
Is it the right kind and mix of uses? Does it provide good jobs and address local needs? Does it promote re-circulation of dollars within the community, or ship them outside?
Does it strengthen our infrastructure or stress it? Does it pay its own way – or does it displace costs upon the community?
Does it redress pass imbalances or exacerbate them? Does it lead to a higher quality of life or decrease it?
Where should the City look for future revenue sources to support the level of service that residents are accustomed too?
After the City’s contractual obligation ends with the FAA to run Santa Monica Airport ends in 2015, decline to renew below-market leases that are costing the City millions – and instead seek new tenants paying fair market value, gaining millions.
Promote public-transit based economic development, by converting the Sears Building just west of the 4th/Colorado Expo rail stop into a major museum/cultural destination – combined with covering over the top of the freeway between Main St. and 4th next to Sears, and creating an integrated public plaza/low scale commercial area like Las Ramblas in Barcelona.
What are the top skills, abilities and personality traits you will look for in a new city manager?
The new city manager must accept and embrace core priorities that make this community what it is – including sustainability, equity, education and an informed and active local civic culture.
Inside City Hall I want someone who relates well to employees. Outside of City Hall I want someone who will listen to and learn from the community.
Financially I want someone who is a good fiscal manager, but without depending upon over-commodifying and over-developing the city.
And the new City Manager must be able of big picture thinking and taking community direction to help us achieve greatness.
Do you trust the current city staff to provide council with information that is transparent, accurate and represents the people?
In the eight years I served on the City Council, the overwhelming amount of information provided in hundreds of staff reports was accurate, objective and complete.
In a small number of cases, we Councilmembers challenged it. The responsible parties are those who prepare and approve staff reports – the City Manager, City Attorney, City Clerk and Department Heads.
My practice is to contact relevant City Staff when an agenda packet comes out, rather than waiting for the Council meeting. That way, progress can be made, with more information available to the public and the Council at the public hearing.
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?
Neither SMRR nor Residocracy is a political party. They are Political Action Committees (PACS).
I agree with SMRR’s platform emphasis on renters rights, affordable housing, education, s healthy environment, parks and open space, seniors, workers, and arts and social services. Although Residocracy doesn’t have a platform. I agree with objectives generally associated with it, around preventing over-development and promoting responsive local government.
There are also other community groups with other focuses, from neighborhood organizations to the Chamber of Commerce, from childcare advocates to sports/athletic associations.
That’s why as a Councilmember, I listen to and learn from everyone.
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?
Santa Monica provides a clean, safe and green environment in which to do business. Our pro-business infrastructure includes our City Net broadband fiber optic network, which helps local businesses compete in the global economy. We also feature high quality police and fire service, a well-funded/highly accomplished Convention and Visitors Bureau, an award-winning Big Blue Bus company, funding for Downtown Santa Monica Inc. to promote our downtown, and support for local business improvement organizations along Main St., Pico Bl. and Montana Ave. – and $17 million annually to the school district to support an educated local work force.