Jesse Zwick: Zwick is a Public Policy Advisor. Courtesy photo

All candidates were given an opportunity to provide written answers to a set of questions provided by SMDP and two sets of answers will be printed each day. Answers are also available online alongside additional information from each candidate. To hear interviews with the candidates, visit www.smdp.com/pod.

What is your justification for using government authority to require private property owners to subsidize inflation, fees, utilities and other costs for rent controlled tenants?

Renters in our community are due the same housing stability and security afforded to those lucky enough to qualify for a 30-year mortgage. Rent control balances this imperative against the need for landlords to make a fair return on their investment. 

Do government subsidies of homeless services do more to get people off the streets or attract more individuals to the city? Depending on your answer, why should that money continue to flow to service providers or be reassigned to other needs?

The internationally recognized best practice for addressing homelessness is called “Housing First.” It says that whether a homeless individual is suffering from a job loss, mental illness, or addiction, getting a roof over their head is essential to their recovery, and is in fact cheaper than the emergency room, police, and criminal justice expenses incurred by that person remaining on the street.

Unfortunately, soaring housing costs in our region ensure that even when our government is able to house thousands of people each year, an even greater number are falling into homelessness. Until we address the underlying dysfunction of our housing market, no amount of spending on homeless services will be sufficient to solve our crisis.

What specific technological, policy or regulatory ideas do you have to address resident concerns about a declining quality of life in Santa Monica?

First, residents and business owners in our city do not have a dedicated number they can call to elicit prompt assistance for an unhoused individual. Our police department is not designed for or capable of responding quickly to every non-emergency situation, and therefore should be aided by a robust system of social workers and mental health clinicians that is responsive to the needs and concerns of Santa Monicans.

Second, our city government has fostered over-investment in commercial real estate and underinvestment in homes for the past four decades. As a result, Santa Monica suffers from an extreme jobs/ homes imbalance, which has caused soaring rents and gentrification, fueled homelessness, and currently forces over 80,000 people employed in Santa Monica to commute into our city each day.

Only by repurposing our commercial corridors for greater residential use and creating “15-minute cities” where people can meet their daily needs without getting in their car can we hope to combat ever growing vehicular traffic and air pollution in our city.

What role does tourism play in Santa Monica’s culture, economy and government? 

Ensuring Santa Monica remains a popular tourist destination pays substantial dividends for its permanent residents. By sharing our community with travelers, we are able to use the revenue generated by our transient occupancy tax and sales tax to fund responsive city services and infrastructural improvements that increase the quality of life for those who live here.

Does Santa Monica’s approach to law enforcement need to change and if so, what would you do to alter the department to meet the needs of the city? 

All cities must contend with the fact that a decades-long disinvestment in housing and mental health care has led to police departments being tasked with responding to every social ill imaginable, many of which they cannot be expected to solve. We must invest in alternative systems of care, thereby freeing up precious resources for our police department to be able to respond quickly to emergencies, prevent violence, and solve crimes in our community.

How do street vendors impact the experience of using Santa Monica’s public spaces?

Street vending adds to the life and vibrancy of our city and its public spaces, so long as it is properly regulated to ensure the safety of residents and a level playing field with our brick-and-mortar small businesses. Santa Monica is haltingly returning to this balance after a period of instability resulting from state-level changes to the legal landscape.

Do you think residents fundamentally trust local government and what can be done to address the feelings many residents have regarding local politics?

Residents of Santa Monica are rightly angry and frustrated by the inability of our municipal, county, and state government to solve its homelessness crisis. The natural instinct of many is to interpret this as a personal failing of either our elected leaders (feckless, corrupt) and/or those who find themselves without a home (lazy, criminal, etc.)

The true causes are both more mundane and more difficult to unwind: deinstitutionalization and disinvestment in mental health care and treatment, the decline of American manufacturing and the ever-widening income gap between our bifurcated tech/ knowledge and service economy, and decades of job and population growth in coastal cities without a commensurate increase in housing supply – these are systems-level failures that won’t be solved overnight.

The first step in the right direction, however, lies in electing leaders who see the problem clearly, tell the truth instead of pandering, and engage in the difficult work of bringing about true systems change within our public sector to improve its ability to respond to our most difficult collective problems.