Ellis Raskin: Raskin is an environmental attorney and city commissioner. 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? 

Our entire community benefits from rent control protections that provide safety and stability to tenants. I am a renter in the Pico Neighborhood, and rent control has allowed me to stay in my home. My story is not unique. Rent control protections promote neighborhood cohesion, and rent control laws are also correlated with improved health outcomes (especially for children). Conversely, the adverse environmental and public health impacts of eviction and displacement have been well documented in scientific literature. 

Landlords have the right to a fair return, and Santa Monica’s rent control law provides property owners the right to petition for a rent increase if they are not making a fair return. But that being said, it is essential for City leaders to scrupulously defend our rent control laws so that City residents do not have to live in fear of being pushed out of their homes. 

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? 

Effective social services are essential to addressing homelessness. Criminalizing homelessness is not the answer. We need compassionate, health-based solutions. 

By most estimates, approximately 75% of homeless individuals in Santa Monica experience some form of mental illness or addiction (which is closely associated with co-occurring mental health issues). We need to ensure that resources are directed toward health-based responses. Research has shown that targeted, health-based interventions are effective (including, e.g., safe shelter space coupled with case management). However, no strategy will work unless we address the systematic causes of homelessness and housing insecurity; to do so, we will need to carefully coordinate with partners in other jurisdictions. 

Why has Santa Monica become a hub of transit innovation including scooters, self-driving cars, delivery drones and zero-emission vehicles and is this industry one that should be encouraged to grow here? 

In recent years, Santa Monica has been a leader in making our streetscape more equitable and safer for those who do not travel in cars. But we still have a long way to go, and we need to continue to work toward our Vision Zero goals. 

We need to continue to embrace innovation. Climate change will force us to accelerate our efforts to get people out of cars. In doing so, we need to continue to make public transit accessible and equitable – and we need to improve transit access throughout Santa Monica. 

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

First and foremost, we need to implement targeted, health-based responses to individuals experiencing homelessness in Santa Monica. In 2021, at least 30 individuals experiencing homelessness died in Santa Monica. This is unacceptable. 

Furthermore, in the broader discussion about quality of life in Santa Monica, we cannot lose sight of the fact that rent burdens adversely affect the quality of life for tens of thousands of City residents. Over 43% of renters are cost burdened (i.e., they pay over 30% of their income toward rent), and over 22% of renters are severely cost burdened (i.e., they pay over 50% of their income toward rent). Rent burdens force families to sacrifice food, medical care, and other essentials. We need to strictly enforce rent control laws, and we need to address the underlying causes of skyrocketing rents in our City.

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

Tourism has always been an essential component of the social and cultural fabric of our City. It has also been a critical component of our local economy. Santa Monica’s leaders need to continue to support the workforce in the tourism industry by fighting for fair wages, workplace security, and new opportunities for workforce housing. 

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? 

As a community, we need to continue to reflect on ways in which we can facilitate equity, inclusion, and accountability in policing. In doing so, we need to address the institutional and structural bases of racism in our community, and we need to confront Santa Monica’s racist past (and ongoing racism in our community). We need to listen to BIPOC voices, and we need to ensure that the Public Safety Reform & Oversight Commission can serve as a forum for re-imagining public safety. 

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

For many years, street vendors have enriched public spaces and have contributed to a vibrant and dynamic community experience. Street vendors are an integral part of Santa Monica’s culture and economy. We need to ensure that our street vendor regulations and permitting process facilitate positive experiences for our community. Likewise, we need to ensure that pathways for obtaining permits are equitable, and we must enforce our street vending laws fairly. 

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

Since 2016, many Americans have grown distrustful of all levels of government. Disinformation campaigns have become far too common locally and nationally. Accordingly, it is essential for leaders at all levels of government to respect and honor truth, integrity, and good governance. We need leaders who understand the importance of ethics and fact-based decision making. We need leaders who are knowledgeable, and we need leaders who don’t engage in sensationalist rhetoric. I promise to uphold these values, and I have shown through my work as a Planning Commissioner that I am a trustworthy and accessible leader. I pledge to uphold civility and to stand up for good governance.