Natalya Zernitskaya: Zernitskaya is a financial analyst. 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 City Charter established Rent Control and it has provided protection for people who would otherwise not be able to remain part of our community. In order to be a truly diverse and equitable City, we must protect vulnerable renters. By law, landlords of rent-controlled properties are entitled to a fair return and if they believe they are not getting a fair return, there is a clear established process available to them to seek an adjustment.

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?    

Both. Currently, there is not enough regional coordination and accountability. We cannot cut off funding because it would just exacerbate the problem but we need to look at how we can make that funding more effective. What we’re doing isn’t working fast enough. Homelessness does not only refer to the unsheltered individuals on our streets, but also people like families with children living out of their cars, veterans cycling in and out of medical care, and LGBTQ+ youth who have been kicked out of their homes. Our region doesn’t do a good enough job working collaboratively together to solve homelessness.  

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? 

We have been a model of a sustainable community on many levels so we have attracted businesses that support sustainability and innovation. Yes, and we need to do this with collaboration among residents, stakeholders, and these businesses because there are many benefits including cleaner air and more transit options from these types of innovative solutions. We do need to better understand the benefits and impacts to residents.

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

It’s clear we’re all frustrated because the economic and social impacts from the pandemic have impacted all of us in different ways. We should expand and build on ways for people to provide feedback to the City through tools like the Santa Monica App and 311. We need to enable better communication among the residents, stakeholders, and the City through solutions like town halls, wayfinding kiosks, etc.

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

Since Santa Monica did not become a major commercial harbor, the City decided to pivot to tourism so it has been a big part of what makes Santa Monica the place it is today for about a century. Tourism and hospitality are large drivers of our city’s economy and subsequently, have historically been a significant source of revenues for our local governmental programs and services. We need to support tourism and hospitality-related businesses because they are key to our economic recovery efforts coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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? 

We need to ensure that first responders have sufficient resources that they need, and that the tasks assigned to our law enforcement officers are in alignment with their expertise and skills so that we are not overburdening them with work that takes away from their primary objective of keeping our community safe. We need to support transparency and accountability by utilizing the Public Safety Reform and Oversight Commission to work with the community to rebuild and strengthen trust among our public safety officers and the community that they serve and belong to. As someone who was born in the former Soviet Union where my government didn’t protect me and we had to flee, I understand the importance of public safety.

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

Overall, they enhance the environment and make for a more vibrant community. However, street vending should be done as a way to support economic mobility and allow for more diversity of small business owners and should not harm the public or the street vendors. For example, vending of food prepared in an unsanitary or unsafe manner detracts from the experience of our public spaces and creates unnecessary risk for both the vendors and the public.

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

People are frustrated with their local government. We can build stronger trust in local government by making sure that people feel heard and that we respond with better communication, transparency, accountability, and action when residents call on us for help.