Caroline Torosis: Torosis is a Rent Control Board Commissioner and an attorney. 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?

In Santa Monica, landlords received over $40 million throughout the pandemic from the State to pay 100% of tenants’ back rent for those who were unable to pay due to COVID-19 hardship. If a landlord is not making a fair financial return, they may apply for a rent increase with the Rent Control Board. Here, over 73% of our buildings are at market rate rent. Landlords have traditionally made more than a fair return on their investment. With over 70% of our city being renters, it is important that as government, we provide community stability and protect our residents, so they are able to stay in their housing. 

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?

According to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), 72 percent of adults experiencing homelessness have lived in the County for more than 20 years, and 87 percent of them have lived here for more than five years. We need to draw down our proportionate share of Measure H funds and work with our partners across the County. I will work to expand resources for homeless services by at least 25% in the City budget. We will do this by holding LAHSA accountable for outreach, mental health services, and crisis response street teams by leveraging both relationships and grant funding opportunities.

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? 

I am proud of Santa Monica’s spirit of innovation. Alternate transit has been given space to thrive because of this. We have a climate crisis, and it’s our responsibility as government to be part of the solution by reducing vehicle miles traveled (VMTs). I support technology that reduces private car trips. To further reduce VMTs, I will support an increase in protected bike lanes and pedestrian walking paths, as well as diagonal crosswalks. 

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

We must work to ensure that our community is safe, clean, and that our residents can age in place. I will increase the availability of the Preserve our Diversity (POD) program to long-term rent-controlled tenants. Santa Monica has enacted a first-in-the-nation program to offer subsidies to long-term senior rent-controlled tenants on fixed incomes. I will work to increase funding for POD to ensure that a greater number of our residents are able to avail themselves of this critical program, particularly in the wake of COVID-19.

Additionally, wealth building does not only occur through homeownership but through business ownership as well. I will work to establish a loan fund help our small, women-owned and BIPOC-owned business acquire their commercial space to keep rents affordable and the business in the community.

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

Tourism and the revenue generated from tourism and hospitality is an essential part of ensuring a thriving city for all. We will realize equitable economic recovery by reducing bureaucratic barriers and red tape for new businesses and therefore new city revenue streams. Specifically, this would include measuring timelines and expediting those entitlement timelines for jobs-creating projects. We will establish one-stop meetings for new projects that will allow all parties and city agencies to come together in one place to let the business know what they need and why they need it by. In my current role as Senior Deputy of Workforce Development & Economic Opportunity for the Chair of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, I am leading the County’s economic recovery response to the COVID-19 pandemic by directing millions of dollars in financial relief to our small businesses. I will use my experience and ability to get things done to spur our economic recovery in a way that welcomes our tourists and visitors back to Santa Monica. 

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? 

Public safety must be a priority for our City Council. This includes fully funding our first responders and reducing police and fire response times to emergencies. I am interested in ensuring that our City runs well. I fully intend on supporting the mission of our Santa Monica Police and Fire Departments while making sure all of our city departments have what they need to do their jobs efficiently and with accountability. 

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

Vendors are in public spaces not only to earn a living but as a response to an on-the-ground need. They serve as cultural anchors in our community, sharing food from around the world. However, we must ensure that there is a legal pathway to vending, and that our public health and safety needs are upheld. Street vendors, when operating legally, enhance the culture and community in Santa Monica. They also provide an opportunity for entrepreneurs to thrive. 

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

The polarization of government at the federal level has started to trickle down to local politics. Fortunately, according to Governing magazine, trust in local government has hovered around 70% during the pandemic. However, part of being an effective leader is having ongoing and direct community and stakeholder engagement when making important decisions. I have proposed the City start a participatory budgeting pilot, where the City will set aside a percentage of its budget for the community to directly decide how this money should be spent.