Geoffrey Neri

Name: Geoffrey Neri

Age: 48

Occupation: Attorney

Neighborhood of residence: Sunset Park

Own or rent: Own

Marital status/kids: Married with one child

Party affiliation: None, Independent

Who has the best cheeseburger in Santa Monica?

Tie: Shaka Shack and Father’s Office

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

The city is underperforming in this effort when compared to neighboring communities like Playa Vista, Venice and Culver City.   We need to increase our outreach and provide greater incentives to promising start-ups. Santa Monica is not a “hard sell”, it just needs to be more effectively promoted and marketed.

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

Yes. I was randomly assaulted in broad daylight while walking into my office building (which is in West L.A., but on the border with Santa Monica). The perpetrator ran up to me yelling incoherently, cold-cocked me on the side of the head with a large cell phone and then ran away.

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

I am member of the Santa Monica Bar Association.   I do pro bono legal work when I can, although not on a weekly basis. My last pro bono assignment involved interviewing and providing legal assistance to immigrant detainees separated from their children and confined at Victorville federal prison.

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 Uber and Bird.   I use Uber frequently, but have discontinued my use of Bird. Its operator has not proven capable of adequately regulating usage of their scooters. I believe that they have become a public nuisance and safety concern for many residents of our city.

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

There is a strong connection between crime and homelessness, as evidenced from the grisly homicides and numerous aggravated assaults that have occurred in Santa Monica over the past year. In the majority of cases, either the victim or perpetrator or both were homeless individuals.

Which three local businesses know you by name?

Bob’s Market, Vito Restaurant and Starbuck’s on Ocean Park.

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

More vehicles means more congestion and gridlock.   We must incentivize residents and commuters to take public transportation by making it a quicker and more convenient option than driving cars. We can do that by prioritizing buses on city streets through restricted “bus-only” lanes and traffic signal priority.

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

We need to encourage owners of commercial properties to transform and reposition their properties for mixed uses. The demand for creative office space and mixed-use properties has increased and will continue to increase as a result of the “Silicon Beach” boom and Santa Monica must meet that demand.

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?

The final buildout of downtown needs to look less like a shopping center and more like a truly public space. I oppose development of the 4th/5th and Arizona project into a bloated 12-story retail/hotel center.   The highest and best use of this property would be a grand green-space park.

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

The changes were positive for all.  Better crowd management, increased security and a greater focus on local and diverse acts all represent positive trends to ensure that the pier concerts continue to thrive.

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

Progress for Santa Monica means adapting to and meeting the needs of our growing and increasingly diverse population without sacrificing the traditional, close-knit and small-town feel of the city.   Unchecked development threatens to destroy the local character of Santa Monica.   Regression on development is progression for the community.

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?

Like most residents of Santa Monica, my patience is also worn thin when it comes to these issues.   I am running for Santa Monica City Council because I am not willing to idly stand by as our city rapidly succumbs to rampant crime, homelessness and general lawlessness.   Our parks should be playgrounds for our children, not campgrounds for a swelling homeless population.

I am an attorney by profession and as a candidate for office my number one priority is law and order.   If elected to city council, I will work towards empowering our police to enforce the laws that already exist and to be proactive rather than reactive when it comes to crime.   We need a constant, vigilant presence of public and private safety officials in the areas of our city that our leaders have allowed to be taken over by drug dealers, criminals and dangerous transients.

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?

Yes, we need to hire more police officers for the vacancies that currently exist, but we also need more “eyes and ears” on the street, not necessarily more “guns and badges”.   In many, if not most, instances, petty and even violent crime can be deterred when there is simply someone present with a semblance of authority.

To that end, I will move our leadership to explore some of the private security measures that neighboring communities such as West Hollywood have implemented. I have been encouraged by discussions I have had with members of the West Hollywood City Council and its office of public safety.   They have committed a significant budget to outsourcing some of the public safety work to private security firms, who can provide a security presence at a small fraction of the cost.   To be more concrete, the annualized cost of a private “Safety Ambassador” is approximately 1/5th of that for a police officer.   This is not, or course, a perfect solution and none exists. However, I understand that the crime deterrent and prevention effect of these private security programs have been substantial for the communities that have implemented them.

When it comes to the homeless, I am sensitive to the plight of those individuals who are truly “down on their luck” and victims of circumstances. However, we cannot become victims of our own tolerance. Increasingly the homeless individuals we are encountering on the streets are aggressive, drug-addled and prone to lewd and anti-social behavior. Again, there is no perfect solution, but proactive measures at security in our parks and other public spaces need to be taken.   We need to have a constant security presence at places like Tongva Park, Reed Park and Chess Park, where aggravated assaults, drug-dealing and even homicides have become increasingly commonplace.

Increased security measures cost money, of course, but I find it inexcusable when we are told by our leadership that we do not have enough money in the budget to address these public safety issues.   If Santa Monica has the money to build a $2.3 million restroom at Clover Park (already approved), the issue is not that we do not have the money, but rather that our financial resources are not being properly deployed and allocated.   If elected, I will insist that all other budget priorities are subordinated to the number one priority of any governing body, which is to provide a safe, clean and livable environment for the people it governs.

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