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HAVE YOU SEEN THE VIDEO?

Urging all to NOT sign the petition to place Sue Himmelrich’s new tax proposal on the ballot in November.

It’s a slick production, three minutes. And it’s a hit job on Mayor Himmelrich, no question. But, it does raise questions about this extreme, complicated and some are saying deceptive proposal that should be considered.

Who put together the video? Who knows? If you find out please let me know. (No guesses or rumors, please.) It is claimed to be the work of “Santa Monica Coalition.” But who are they?

Who they are NOT, is the group Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City (SMCLC), well established and credible for their investigative efforts to dig out corruption here in Bay City.

Searching for “Santa Monica Coalition” online produced only endless references to SMCLC. I’d be willing to bet the video makers chose that name intentionally so people might assume it was from SMCLC. I contacted them Monday and Steering Committee member Diana Gordon, previously unaware of it, quickly got back to me. “… it has no relation to our nonprofit group – Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City. We hope people are not confused.” SMCLC Advisors Dan Jansenson and Mary Marlow confirmed the same.

The narrator identifies herself as “Jessica Rogers” and appears to be the president of the Pacific Palisades Resident Association.

Himmelrich answered my inquiry with this: “I believe this is the woman who set up a table across the street from our house on Saturday and tried to intercept and dissuade people coming to sign our petition. I walked across the street, introduced myself to her, and asked her name. She refused to tell me her last name.

“We are aware that for-profit developers and business interests (among others) are trying to prevent Santa Monica voters from deciding in November whether to pass our measure.  We believe that most Santa Monicans support our measure and want to help their rent burdened neighbors stay in their homes, to create our fair share of affordable housing directly rather than through a Sacramento imposed massive increase in market-rate development, and to assure the continuing excellence of our public schools. The opponents clearly believe this too—that is why they are trying to keep our measure off the ballot and away from the voters.”

There’s a lot to unpack there and I might go further into it later, but this will surely be picked apart aplenty in the coming days. Here’s one personal observation: when I have voiced my reasons for not signing to (paid) signature collectors mostly at supermarkets, the reaction has gone from being taken aback to now raising hands and eyebrows in an “I know!” gesture.

“I REALLY DON’T CARE WHO MADE IT”

A local shaker and sometimes mover told me. “Doesn’t matter. It’s a bad proposal and it shouldn’t be on the ballot.”

Based on the photos, I believe the video was produced by John Alle, a vocal critic of Downtown Santa Monica and the city’s response to homelessness.

Like I said, it is a complicated legal, real estate oriented tax that claims to be able to generate substantial funding for the homeless, our schools, affordable housing and other social services. Would it? It does so by imposing a heavy tax on the sale of properties that exceed $8M. But does it really work that way?

Who below the one percent level of income wouldn’t vote for this, right? The Robin Hood tax. Certainly it is being promoted that way. But all the exemptions for corporations are left intact, so that those who can afford to cloak their dealings in large partnership corporations, like LLCs and other privately held entities, may be exempt, protected from paying this very large tax.

CASE IN POINT 

The sale, three weeks ago, of the property at 1221 Ocean Avenue was announced, with a record price tag of $330,000,000. Yes, that is a dime short of a third of a billion dollars. $2.7M per unit, $1,800 per square foot for 120 units. The timing is interesting, because while such deals do not happen overnight, it has come under the wire of being excused from this transfer tax if it does pass in November. Why, it’s almost as if they might have known this new tax was coming. 

So, the way Himmelrich’s proposal is structured, the City would get nothing out of this huge sale. No transfer tax. And if they decide to sell in the future, they will not sell the property, they will sell a portion of the partnership, and avoid it. And then they could sell the remainder of the partnership over the next two years and viola, a monumental sale that isn’t really a sale, and no Santa Monica, you don’t get a penny from a transfer tax. This appears, to my feeble economic mind, to not be what it is being sold as.

(Another Ocean Avenue property sold last October for $70M, at the time a near-record, with each of 38 units going for $1.8M. I guess I’m just a paranoid  real estate rube to suspect that something is going on here that will transform Santa Monica even more, way more, into a city of ridiculously wealthy investors (in partnerships, with their army of lawyers), and those in rent controlled apartments, who will keep voting for politicians who assure them they will be safe. 

Y’all in single family homes? Best beware. You might not be able to leave that home to your kids, as you have planned for decades. And even if you did, could they pay the property tax, without their own army of lawyers? The limit is $8M now, but if passed, that could be adjusted down.

ANOTHER FEW POINTS 

To consider and debate.

Accountability. As always. Does the proposal guarantee the money will go where they indicate it will? I’m trying to think of the last time a new levy here did that.

Bureaucracy. A new board of residents will be chosen to administer millions in subsidies to keep those in danger of losing their home. It will be interesting to see who winds up on that powerful board, and what their accountability is. We have been spending about $6M/year on homelessness.” and nobody can tell us where that money has gone. Yeah, so let’s double down.

Schools. My sources indicate many connected with SMMUSD are not thrilled with this. The promise of funding, which may not even pan out, will make it harder for them to sell their next huge bond issue.

Why did Himmelrich and husband Michael Soloff (former Housing Commissioner, kicked off under new nepotism rules) throw in $200,000 of their own money to get this on the ballot? I guess they felt it was even more important than the $140,000 they spent on her election to City Council. 

The years of platitudes about helping the unhoused are baloney. A cover for selling out to developers. Build 500 market rate units, get 50 affordable ones. What a great plan, to double the already too dense population of SM. Great for outside developers, great for the insider politicians and operatives they bankroll, not so great for the forgotten Santa Monican –the resident.

As Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for 36 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at  therealmrmusic@gmail.com