Incumbent Pam O’Connor and Residocracy founder Armen Melkonians have both pulled papers to run for City Council, representing opposite ends of a spectrum that already includes a dozen candidates.

O’Connor had declined in the past few months to say whether she would run for reelection, raising the possibility of an open seat in play. With her decision to pull papers, all three incumbents will be asking for voters to send them to Council Chambers for four more years.

O’Connor, Melkonians and others now have until August 10 to gather at least 100 signatures in support of their candidacy. The potential candidate pool also includes Sue Himmelrich (incumbent), Kevin McKeown (incumbent), Mike Farid, Mary Marlow, Greg Morena, Linda Armstrong, Scott Bellomo, Mary Sampson, Ashley Powell and Whitney Scott Bain.

O’Connor has served on the Council since 1994, including five stints as Mayor. She serves on numerous boards and commissions and is widely seen as instrumental to the Expo Line extension into Santa Monica. Ostensibly “pro-development,” O’Connor objected to a recent a ballot measure intended to guard against greater density in the city. Earlier this year, O’Connor voted against an emergency anti-mansionization ordinance to limit the size of new homes in the city, criticizing the process as “slapdash.”

Over the past two decades, O’Connor has weathered a number of political storms, including her controversial role in the city’s 2014 hiring and firing of a Communications Director. While serving as mayor, O’Connor pressured former City Manager Rod Gould who rescinded a job offer to Elizabeth Riel, characterizing her as a “political enemy.” Riel settled a First Amendment lawsuit against the city for $710,000.

“I’ve worked to build a strong foundation for our City and I am running for re-election to continue to provide the creativity and innovation needed to lead our community into a dynamic future that serves us all,” she said. “Especially important is to ensure housing security and affordable housing for residents and for the next generation.”

Her public Facebook page has not been updated since January 2017. Meanwhile, one of her most fervent critics hope to use the power of social media close the historic gap between challengers and incumbents.

In fact, Melkonians’ decision to run for City Council will come as no surprise to followers of his incendiary Residocracy Santa Monica Facebook page, where the new dad has shifted the conversation from local development to surging crime and homelessness.   The number of violent crimes in Santa Monica increased 48 percent from 2016 to 2017.

“Crime has been rising over the last several years at alarming rates and City Hall has done nothing, nada, zilch to protect residents,” Melkonians wrote recently, complaining that Facebook removed a recent post that included a graphic photo of a homeless man masturbating at Chess Park. “We are in a Stage 4 Cancer situation and our Council Members believe they do not have the power to do their #1 job responsibility.”

In a phone call with the Daily Press, the author of Measure LV said he shifted his focus to crime last September when his mother-in-law was attacked on Lincoln Boulevard and dragged by a car during a robbery.

“I have a brand new six-month-old at home and I wanted to spend time with him and, of course, the election will take that time away,” Melkonians said, “but I don’t want my six-month-old to grow up in a city like this.”

The civil engineer is hoping the anti-incumbant sentiment that has shaken-up political races across the country will wash ashore in the city by the sea.

As he begins his most recent campaign, state officials are still looking into whether he illegally coordinated campaigns in 2016. Melkonians is currently under investigation by the Fair Political Practices Commission for allegations his previous Council campaign colluded with the Yes on LV campaign.

Kate Cagle

Senior reporter for the Santa Monica Daily Press