Armen Melkonians, founder of the Residocracy movement, speaks to a crowd of supporters gathered outside of City Hall. (Daniel Archuleta


They’re a power in Santa Monica politics. Claim to represent a large segment of our residents. Working for their benefit, they say. Have done a lot of good in the past, in my opinion. Will play a very important role in our upcoming local elections.

But try to find out anything about their inner workings. Or even, who they are. You know the names of a leader or two, but try to find out how to communicate with them, or who’s even on their governing board. Their website won’t tell you. My recent inquiries asking for names and email addresses of board members, to send a brief unspecified communication, were met with silence.

Actually, worse than silence. No names or emails were offered but assumptions were, about what they thought I wanted to communicate. So, whatever it is — and we do magically know what you are going to say or ask — no thanks.

SMRR, right? Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights. Notorious for being a closed club that influences elections and ballot measures and says they represent so many, but just try and even peek inside. Who are they? What rules do they operate under? Not telling. I have written not so nice things about them in the past.

But, no … this time I’m talking about Residocracy. A group I have enthusiastically supported and written positively about ever since their founding. But in my recent interaction, I couldn’t help but be reminded of that other group.


After responding to my email request with a baseless assumption about what I wanted to say, board member and LUVE co-author Tricia Crane greeted me at Sunday’s pep rally at Bergamot Station, for getting the slow-growth initiative passed in November, with a big smile and “I have to give you a kiss!” (Noted: on the cheek. But how about some information, instead?)

When I greeted Residocracy founder and the other co-author of LUVE, Armen Melkonians, cheerfully with, “Hey Armen, why won’t you answer my emails?” his response was a similar assumption, saying that he would address later in the week the issue of a certain candidate’s endorsement. “But you don’t know what I was going to write,” I said. “I know,” he smiled. I guess that’s why he’s the boss, but with such mind-reading abilities I think he should be aiming higher, like President, or World Emperor, or Goldman-Sachs CEO. It is a very good superpower. Except when it’s wrong.

Turns out they were both close, but not close enough. I have a spiritual advisor who preaches, “assumptions are the mother of all f(oul)ups,” and I think those are words to remember. If they had simply provided all of us with a possibility for communication, something you might expect of any self-proclaimed people’s representative group, I wouldn’t be writing this tale. Which is unfortunate, because they are the good guys and LUVE, imperfect though it is, is something we desperately need for the survival of a Santa Monica that is not all density and high rise, choked in traffic, depleted of resources, a cash cow for big developers.


Of some people I know well, like, and respect. (I will get fewer kisses, for sure.) But if a similar set of events had occurred with SMRR, I would certainly report that. (I’ve never even tried, because their website is even more lacking in organizational information, and my past probes for info have gotten me nowhere.) I am confident a similar request to SMRR would have yielded the same huggermuggery, or more likely, complete silence.

Why is it all the crusading organizations, full of promise, that I join turn out to be terribly disorganized if not outright secretive, sometimes to hide their creeping corruption? (Am I thinking this because I just watched day one of the Democratic convention? Bernie got burned, so help me God.)

I am absolutely not accusing Residocracy of corruption, just of being stubbornly insular, which I believe has led to tactical errors. When I wrote two weeks ago of them appearing, in their first invitation-only LUVE meeting, “very well organized and very much up to the task,” it may have been partly wishful projection. Fewer than 100 showed up for this gathering (notably absent: their political consultant, Sue Burnside). Very disappointing, and with the SMRR convention a week away, there was no indication of a plan for candidate endorsements, or a slate, aimed at changing the City Council, which is crucial to accomplishing the intents of LUVE.


But then I had to rush over to the birthday celebration for Medicare, an annual rally by physicians’ groups for universal, single-payer healthcare in the poor third-world country that lacks it, the USA. Held again at the lovely home of local longtime activists Jerry Manpearl and Jan Goodman, the entertainment was excellent, the speeches moving, the food yummy.

I tried to approach an activist from the other side, Jason Islas, to ask why he hasn’t accepted my longstanding Facebook “friend” request, but he spent most of his time on the far side of the pool, huddled with Gleam Davis. C’mon, Jason — let’s be friends.

County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, who gave a terrific speech about healthcare, almost escaped me too, but I caught her headed for the gate, introduced myself, and asked one thing, would she would consider rethinking her opposition to LUVE, “based on our recent development history here in Santa Monica”? Kuehl has been an outspoken opponent.

She literally jumped back a foot, shot me a withering look as though I had just requested permission to drown her children in front of her, and snapped, “Absolutely not!!” My mom always said it never hurts to ask, but sometimes it’s a bit scary.

I don’t think I’m ingratiating myself to the Democratic party elected elite. Encountering our U.S. representative, Ted Lieu, at the recent meeting of the Santa Monica Democratic Club, I told him I was “extremely disappointed in what I’ve seen from the national party lately. I don’t think it’s very democratic,” I said, and I strongly feel the chairwoman “has to go, immediately.” He nodded politely. But then he did it! So I guess my voice is being heard.

Yeah, right.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “A city is more than a place in space, it is a drama in time.” —Patrick Geddes

Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for 30 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at