Election: Environmental attorney Ellis Raskin is running for City Council. Photo by Kristina Sado

Environmental attorney and Planning Commissioner Ellis Raskin has tossed his hat in the ring for the upcoming City Council election casting himself as an independent progressive candidate.

Raskin moved to Santa Monica in 2015 and became involved in local politics as an advocate for sustainability and for protecting rent controlled residents. He was appointed to the Urban Forest Task Force in 2017 and became a planning Commissioner in 2020. Now he’s got his eyes set on a seat at the Council dias.

“We’re really at a unique point in the City’s history where we need leaders to step up and be advocates for good governance and sustainability and rational planning,” said Ellis. “I’m going to be coming with a really unique viewpoint relative to other people who are going to be applying for the seats.”

Ellis said he is not a hawker of development who is willing to be fast and loose with the environment regulations and development standards. However, at the same time he views himself as a progressive and said he is committed to ensuring that the City develops in an equitable manner and is able to meet its state mandated requirement to build almost 9,000 new units by 2029.

When it comes to the biggest challenges facing Council, Ellis thinks the top priorities should be getting a compliant housing element and helping the City continue its pandemic recovery in a manner that respects sustainability and progressive values.

The Housing Element outlines Santa Monica’s plan to meet the state’s ambitious housing requirements. The City’s initial draft was rejected by Housing and Community Development in February and is currently in the process of being revised. Without a compliant element the City stands at risk of losing state funding for a variety of programs. As a Planning Commissioner, Ellis is currently working closely on the zoning changes needed to enable the housing development programs included in the element.

As an environmental attorney, Ellis’s day job is to advise public agencies and other stakeholders on environmental policies, housing laws and urban development. He also applies this knowledge closely to his work on the Planning Commission.

In addition to housing development and sustainability, Ellis highlighted homelessness, free speech and open government, economic growth and recovery, and public safety and emergency preparedness as key platform issue areas. He is specifically interested in implementing policies designed to prevent people from falling into homelessness such as rent subsidies and emergency rental assistance programs. Ellis is currently the only renter on the Planning Commission and lives in the Pico neighborhood.

“If we can find a way to keep people in their homes and stop people from becoming homeless in the first place, that’s going to go a long way towards addressing our problem,” said Ellis. “There is a substantial number of folks in Santa Monica, who are experiencing some form of housing insecurity.”

When looking at the current field of potential candidates and current Councilmembers, Ellis does not align himself with a specific slate.

“No matter who else is sitting on the Council, I’m going to be an independent voice,” said Raskin. “I’m not really too interested in trying to pack a certain block or trying to power a certain outcome here, because I value good governance and I value independent thinking and leaders who will stand up for principles. That’s why I’m running.”