Richard McKinnon

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

Name: Richard McKinnon

Age: 57

Occupation: Business owner

Neighborhood: Wilmont

Own/Rent: Rent

Marital status: Married

Kids: 1

Political affiliation: Democrat

Schooling: College

Highest degree attained: BA

Hobbies: None

Reading list: Nature’s Fortune

How do you get to work? Bike

Favorite place to have a quick, 1 on 1 meeting in Santa Monica? Peet’s Main Street

Favorite dinner spot: True Food

Last sporting event you attended: US Open (tennis)

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 run to Control Development, put Residents first and turn the City a Deep Green. On the Planning Commission over a number of years I have built a clear, powerful record of representing the interests and ambitions of the whole Santa Monica community in creating a livable City that is fair for everyone. The City Council needs active members who lead on key issues but can also collaborate to get strong policy outcomes.

What are Santa Monica’s three major strengths and weaknesses? What will you do to ensure the strengths remain and the weaknesses are contained?

Strengths; Its environment. Its resident’s diversity. Its progressive approach to public policy issues.

Weakness. The gold rush mentality of developers. Circulation and the inability of most residents to move around the City easily. Income inequality.

The City has to be a leader in sustainability for residents and for its settings. Santa Monica has always been a horizontal City with easy equal access to light, the beach, and a great quality of life. Its residents, no matter what their income level or social circumstance, have enjoyed the ability to live here. We have believed that everyone has a right to be in the City, no matter what their personal circumstance. The politics and public policy of the City have ensured that anyone has equal chance of a life that is dignified. And so the strength of politics here has created national leadership on issue after issue that matters to people.

The Councils task is to ensure that they support quality of life for everyone. Calming the development frenzy, getting predictability into the system, ensuring that developers pay for the disruption they cause, getting appropriately strong community benefits begins to introduce order into land use. Refusing to contemplate the often outrageous development proposals from the development machine puts control back into the City Council, not the developers. Guaranteeing everyone equal access to all parts of the City is critical. Instead of giving up on traffic, Town Hall has to institute strong traffic management, a program of getting people out of cars and cracking down on commercial and retail interest to force change. The fundamentals of traffic and movement in the City have to be changed otherwise life for most is diminished.

Finally there are beyond the normal discussions of this campaign, real issues of poverty and income inequality that impact our residents. The City is rapidly becoming a City where many are wealthy and economically strong, and many have rent control to sustain them, but there are few, and very few ordinary middle class people in between. This is unacceptable. It’s also unacceptable that thousands live in poverty amidst a City that so rich powerful and strong. Our policies need to acknowledge the poverty and tackle those issues, as we move on keeping our City a place where everyone can live comfortably.

Our beach, the air, the ocean, the climate, are unique worldwide. They make where we live extraordinary and preserving that quality matters a great deal.

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?

No. There continues to be a large number of homeless people living on the streets. We know homeless people have mental health and a variety of other difficult social and health issues. It’s not acceptable for them, or the wider Santa Monica population, that homelessness continues. We need a stronger more humane approach that breaks the cycle with massive intervention that removes the homeless from the street directly into accommodation of their own and then clusters social and health service around them. Homelessness appears to be an issue that most people want their leaders to solve and therefore is for whatever reason, out of sight and out of mind this year. It’s still a real burning issue that the council has to solve

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?


Is Measure FS fair to all residents?


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?

The City gets water from a variety of sources. It drills into aquifers in Santa Monica. It owns wells in the Palms area. It purchases from the Colorado River and from the Delta. But gaining access to more water rights is difficult at any time; in the middle of a drought it’s impossible. So far the City has barely scratched the surface of conservation. Its communication has been weak and unsuccessful about the impact of the drought. Its proposed initial restrictions unfairly targeted resident over commercial interests. Every apartment and condo should have its own meter to measure water usage. Every resident has to be invested in cutting back on water. California is within two years of running out of water. Everyone has a stake in guaranteeing this doesn’t happen.

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

Santa Monica rent and real estate values price now most middle class citizens out of the market and City. Additionally, there is a housing crisis with availability and affordability the key issue. The City must continue to be a leader in organizing a way for residents of all income level the chance to continue to live in dignity in the City. Affordable housing at every level offers a chance to preserve diversity. The key will be to find new ways to fund affordable housing and find new ways of integrating the housing into the City.

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?

Yes. Yes. Turn it into park with development banned. Nearly 20,000 resident live with the environmental, social, safety problems of the Airport; they deserve relief. All of us pay for the economic cost of the Airport. The City should starve the aviation uses of leases, insist on market rate rents, institute stringent environmental standards and generally make it as difficult as possible for a subsidized few to take advantage of the airport. In particular the City has to try and get the jets out of the Airport.

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?

Community benefits are above and beyond what a developer has to pay to begin a development in Santa Monica. They should be large and make a difference in the community for the disruption the development may cause. Every DA must have a long and strong list of community benefits. No developer has walked away from a DA in twenty years. Clearly we have not tested the limits of what developer will pay to do development in Santa Monica. The City has not successfully captured enough return for what it has given developers in entitlements. Finally the Council must always retain control in a DA process. And under the LUCE DA should be rare with Tier 2 providing predictability for developers with smaller projects and known community benefits.

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

Overdevelopment is a line of huge hotels on Ocean Avenue. 35 DA queued up and ready to impact neighborhoods. Every proposed building being deliberately maxed out in allowable FAR and height. Real estate being purchased at over the odds prices which in turn need more entitlements to make them work. 20 years of LUCE projections being reached in four years. A complete change in the fabric, density and quality of the City. City streets with buildings jammed to the property lines overshadowing the sidewalks. A City that is exploding rather than evolving. The City getting into the real estate development business with the biggest buildings they can put on sites.

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 Company refused to change their project in any way to meet the community demands for that site. The proposal was architecturally poor, it offered no real community making, it created thousands of new car trips and it stuffed to much commercial office space into the project in the wrong part of town. Hines felt they could ram it through the political process. They almost succeeded. Developers will learn from Hines they need to understand and work with the Santa Monica community.

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

Does it fulfill a need in the City? Does it have architectural value? Does it contribute to answering the need of the residents? Does what is proposed fit into the overall direction of the City? Will it produce a more livable, human scaled City? It is sustainable? Does it meet stringent environmental standards?

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

Santa Monica has been attracting a range of entrepreneurs who are bringing or starting small physical footprint companies that have large economic reach in the digital, online, entertainment, environmental areas. Appropriate sized and placed hotels to deal with the soaring demand from every sector of access to the Beach.

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

The City Manager of Santa Monica needs to have a calm disposition and understand the intensely political environment of the job. They need to have progressive vision of the City and yet be able to manage and lead a large organization that spends over a half a billion dollars of revenue every year. They need to be results orientated, open to change and able to make effective decision. Not an easy job.

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

The City has a high quality and extremely intelligent group of people who work in Town Hall. They work hard. They want to satisfy their customers. Systematically we need to open up more and allow more insight into decisions. It’s up to the Council to ask for more information or demand more if they or the resident aren’t happy. If that hasn’t happened blame the Council.

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?

Each organization has different visions. SMRR is concerned with ensuring that renters continue to have fair secure access to housing. Residocracy is focused on development issues. Many people see value in both.

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?

Predictability and certainty are two key requirements of any business. As a City we often make it hard for business people to know what the process is and how long it will take. We live in the past in terms of using technology to make it easy for business in the process. There are many stories of different City departments not working together well for good outcomes. But because we have created a complete environment of walkable streets, good cafes and restaurants, great place to ride a bike, tree line streets, strong schools and college, an important kind of knowledge based business now wants to be here. It’s an important lesson that getting the fundamentals of a City right and it automatically becomes attractive to do business.

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