We — Santa Monica Mayor Sue Himmelrich, SMRR Co-Chair (and Sue’s husband) Mike Soloff, and Santa Monica Democratic Club President Jon Katz — are the three proud proponents of the local ballot measure currently circulating for signatures entitled “Funding for Homelessness Prevention, Affordable Housing and Schools.” We expect our proposed new transfer tax, which would only apply to sales of property worth $8 million or more, will raise some $50 million per year for assisting rent-burdened low-income Santa Monica residents, for creating more deed-restricted affordable housing, and for supporting the operations of our public schools. Our measure will help Santa Monica residents and advance core Santa Monica values in three ways.
First, the measure will provide desperately needed ongoing or emergency rental assistance to many of the (HUD estimated) 6,500 Santa Monica renter households who are both low income and pay more than half of their limited incomes for rent and utilities, and the additional 3,000 Santa Monica renter households who are both low income and pay between 30.1% and 50% of their limited incomes for rent and utilities.
Assuming that at least $50 million is raised in a year, a minimum of roughly 25% (and a maximum of roughly 40%) of the total monies raised will go to funding and administering ongoing or emergency rental assistance programs for these at-risk Santa Monica residents, with a preference for households that include seniors, children or the mentally or physically challenged. Helping our seniors to age in place, and all our lower income neighbors to live in security and dignity, is a core Santa Monica value.
Second, the measure will provide funds for the creation of new deed-restricted affordable housing for low and moderate income households, either through the acquisition and rehabilitation of existing residential or commercial buildings, or through the construction of new buildings. In an effort to ensure that Santa Monica not become an economically gated
community, the voters previously placed into the City Charter the requirement that the City Council ensure that at least 30% of all new multi-family housing in the City consist of such deed-restricted affordable housing. Current Santa Monica policy gives first preference in such affordable housing to Santa Monica residents displaced from their homes through no fault of their own, and second preference to those who live or work in the City. Assuming that at least $50 million is raised in a year, the minimum of roughly 40% that will go to create such affordable housing is essential to maintaining Santa Monica’s core values of inclusion and economic diversity.
Third, the first $10 million per year (and 20% of any funds over $50 million raised in a year) will go to support the public schools. Excellent schools are essential for all our community’s children to thrive, and are a core Santa Monica value.
A few individuals have written letters to this newspaper and others asserting that our measure will not be good for “the residents,” and urging readers not to sign the petitions. They hope that Santa Monica voters will deny themselves the opportunity to decide whether to adopt the measure in November after a full campaign. For these letter writers, the struggling members of the 9,500 rent-burdened lower income Santa Monica renter households are apparently not included among “the residents”. Nor do these letter writers include among “the residents” those of us who choose to live in Santa Monica precisely because it is not (at least not yet) an economically gated community, and who believe that helping our lower income neighbors and providing great schools for our community’s children is a core value. Our measure plainly is good for these residents, and the voters should have the chance to decide for themselves in November.
We each have a long track record of fighting for an inclusive community, renters’ and residents’ rights, and great schools. If you too believe in standing up for Santa Monica residents and values, and for allowing Santa Monica voters to decide for themselves what vision of the future they wish to pursue, we urge you to sign the petition to place our funding measure on the November ballot.
 Because the first $10 million raised will go to the schools, the minimum and maximum percentage of the overall funds raised that would go for rent subsidy and for creating affordable housing would decrease in any particular year if less than $50 million is collected.
Sue Himmelrich, Mike Soloff & Jon Katz, Santa Monica