Sue Himmelrich


Name: Sue Himmelrich

Age: 65

Occupation: Attorney at Western Center on Law and Poverty

Neighborhood of residence: NOMA

Own or rent: Owned since 1992

Marital status/kids: Married to Michael Soloff with two daughters, Hilary (28) and Molly (25)

Party affiliation: Democrat since I registered to vote in 1971

SURVEY (50 word answers)

  1. Who has the best cheeseburger in Santa Monica?

I don’t each much meat any longer but The Counter for meat cheeseburgers and Bareburger for veggie cheeseburgers.

  1. What is the city doing to anchor promising startup companies to Santa Monica and secure local jobs?

The City partners with the Chamber of Commerce to promote local companies in emerging industries. This is why we are now the hub of “Silicon Beach” and why newer companies such as Bird and Snap are moving their offices to Santa Monica.

  1. Have you been the victim of a crime in Santa Monica in the past two years and what happened?

I have not been a victim of crime, but did send the Daily Press an open letter reacting to a string of robberies in my neighborhood

  1. What Santa Monica service or professional organizations do you belong to? How many hours per week do you volunteer inside Santa Monica?

Santa Monicans for Renters Rights, Santa Monica Democratic Club, Santa Monica Bar Association, Santa Monica Homelessness Task Force, NOMA, Wilmont, FOSP, Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce, Heal the Bay, Santa Monica Transparency Project. Not counting City Council, which occupies 20-30 hours per week, I spend 10 or more additional hours per week volunteering in Santa Monica.

     5. Do you have an account with Bird, Lime, Jump, Lyft, Uber and/or Breeze for scooters and bikes? Which one do you use most       frequently?

I have accounts with Bird, Lime, Lyft, and Breeze. I have not been able to connect successfully with Jump though I have tried. I use Breeze most frequently but generally prefer to walk shorter distances.

  1. What, if any, is the connection between crime and homelessness?

We criminalize homelessness in many ways: by banning loitering, panhandling, occupying and sleeping in public places, and creating shelter. Thus begins the vicious cycle of homelessness – not a lifestyle choice for most – and arrest, leading to a criminal record, which in turn leads to more barriers to finding a job or housing.

  1. Which three local businesses know you by name?

Casa Martin, Upper West, Salon Nesou

  1. What does it mean for the City’s traffic mitigation efforts if BBB is considering replacing buses with cars on some routes?

If a route cannot support a bus but is necessary for legal or other reasons, it makes perfect sense to provide service with a smaller vehicle, e.g., a car. This already is the case with paratransit. BBB has sought public input on broader microtransit but has not taken steps toward implementation.

  1. How will the City’s economy survive the continued decline in retail sales?

The City – and all cities – will need to find new sources of income from the businesses and technologies that replace brick-and-mortar retail. This includes online merchants of all sorts that have monetized internet and wireless technology.

  1. Several downtown projects (the Fairmont, the Gehry project and 4th/5th and Arizona) are still working through the city process. What does the final buildout of downtown look like?

I remain opposed to creating office space on our public land at 4th/5th and Arizona. I believe that all parking (and all revenues from that parking) from all three projects should be built at 4th/5th and Arizona, with all parking revenues going to the City.   I am unhappy with the 130 ft. height levels the council adopted for Ocean Ave. as well as 4th/5th and Arizona and would prefer that maximum heights for these sites be reduced to 84 ft.

  1. Were the changes to the pier concerts a positive for the shows, the pier and the community?

The pier concerts swung from the Khalid extreme to this year’s light attendance. I’m sure the Pier will continue to find a middle ground that allows the concerts to remain interesting without turning into Woodstock West.

  1. How do you define progress for a community like Santa Monica?

Progress means: our residents feeling increasingly secure in their homes, both from crime and from displacement; protecting and enhancing our diversity, especially economic diversity; developing new affordable housing and assisting more rent burdened seniors; reducing the number of homeless on our streets but doing it the right way, by placing the homeless in housing, providing necessary services, and working with other communities to do the same; reducing traffic congestions and attracting both residents, workers, visitors, and others to use transit or other modes rather than drive; closing the achievement gap in our schools; progress is offering to our community members a broader and more compelling cultural and artistic experience.

ESSAY (Up to 1,000 words split as you choose between the two questions)

Santa Monica residents feel besieged homelessness and many are tired of being told solutions are coming or need to be at the regional level. What will you do from the Council dais to directly improve the quality of life for citizens concerned about this issue?

As legal counsel for the Western Center on Law and Poverty I work on issues advocating for low income and homeless communities. In Santa Monica I serve on the city’s Homeless Task Force where we seek solutions to address the specific needs of those without housing as well as protecting those who are on the margins of becoming homeless while assessing as well how we best ensure the safety of all and be an effective participant in regional efforts.

People may grow tired of hearing that the challenge of homelessness requires a regional effort. Nevertheless, this is a truth about which we must always be reminded and Santa Monica must help lead that effort.

In terms of solutions, I believe that this regional problem requires a regional Housing First approach. Such an approach was successful in reducing the homeless population in Utah by 92%. We must also provide a system that expedites housing placement under a Housing First program for those who are chronically homeless in Santa Monica. We must create permanent supportive housing designed specifically to meet the needs of our homeless community, whether that be housing vouchers or project-based section 8 units. We must also address the rights and protections for those residing in and seeking services from our shelters. I am assessing a solution to move one of our shelters into a larger, more accessible building to increase capacity as well as improve the experience of our homeless population in the shelter system.

We currently have outreach teams working with our homeless residents in parks and on our streets to assess their needs and address policy changes that can help move people into housing and services quickly.   I have been participating in the City’s homeless count for years and have also been an active member of the volunteerism section of the Task Force. I pushed for more rapid implementation of outreach efforts.

I am now moving to the public safety section of the Task Force where I hope to motivate efforts that will address the fears of community members. I have pushed staff to consider moving Samoshel, our medical shelter, to a hanger in the airport and believe that many services could be shifted from downtown to our airport properties with traffic mitigation provided by shuttle service.

At last week’s Coast event, I manned the Homelessness table for the “We Are Santa Monica” booth and was moved by the willingness of so many participants to open their hearts to our efforts concerning our homeless population. Only one person over a 4-hour shift suggested that we should jail or institutionalize the homeless in Santa Monica. Others, many with small children, wanted to know more about preparing hygiene kits, donating to the Westside Food Bank, and planning a “service day” at their work or their children’s school. Most heartening was the willingness of a clear majority of participants to say “hello” to someone whom they perceived as homeless, a practice I have adopted that patently has a positive effect.

As we all know, though, the best solution to homelessness is affordable housing, and I plan to continue my determined efforts to increase the supply of affordable housing in Santa Monica both because it is needed here but also because we provide and important regional model. I worked for the repeal of Costa Hawkins (and the Ellis Act) long before Prop 10 was placed on the ballot. Much of my advocacy has focused on funding and creating affordable housing. With my husband, I sponsored and helped fund campaigns for Measures GS and GSH with school district parent associations. These measures passed with over 62% of the vote and now provide $8.5 million each for affordable housing and public schools.  I also supported the requirement of 20-30% affordable housing in the Downtown Community Plan.

We also must prevent people at risk of losing their housing from eviction. We have many elderly residents who are long-term rent control tenants, and I support the POD program that provides subsidies to long-term tenants paying more than 50% of their income for rent, which now is funded at an annual level of $2 million. I also initiated legislation that prohibits discrimination against Section 8 tenants, and an ordinance banning evictions of students and teachers during the school year.

Finally, to add additional funds to our local affordable housing efforts, I will promote a tax on market rate units, rent-controlled or not, to generate additional funds for affordable housing, preservation of existing housing, and helping our residents to stay in their homes.

We know the police department needs to hire more people and state laws have put more criminals back on the streets but what will you do to at the local level mitigate the increase in crime?

I am aware and councilmembers are aware of the increase in crime. As councilmembers, public safety in the broadest sense is our #1 responsibility, so this continued increase is simply unacceptable. I have spoken at great length with our police chiefs, old and new, and our city manager; we have authorized funding for additional sworn and unsworn police officers; and I have stressed and will continue to stress the need for a police presence on the streets in the areas where the violence is concentrated. I note with some pride that it was the Santa Monica police whose quick response resulted in the recent arrest of an alleged serial murderer.

Our police are well trained to help both the housed and the homeless. The risks of crime are far greater for those without homes. I believe a community policing model, including foot patrol in our parks and areas where the homeless congregate, is more likely to be an effective deterrent to crime than scheduled police cruisers driving by.

Prevention of crime must be our #1 priority. We need to improve community awareness of how we can avoid becoming victims and ensure continued rapid police response to violent incidents.

I think it is imperative that we as council members acknowledge the truth of unpleasant conditions, such as rising crime and homelessness, inform ourselves about solutions that were effective in other cities, and implement those solutions.

I am fortunate that my day job at Western Center on Law & Poverty informs my insight into solutions to our thorny problems. I will continue to apply what I learn from that job to improve the life of all Santa Monicans.

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