Representation in Santa Monica has always been non-existent

Representation in Santa Monica has always been non-existent. If City Council members represented specific neighborhoods or geographical regions of the city, they might actually be held to account. Currently, they’re not.

People have remained on the Council long beyond their effective date. Some have been so blatantly unethical that they were, indeed, forced out, but most have remained in place for years, sometimes decades, ensuring that developers will find a welcome mat as the interests of residents have, over time, become less important.

The City’s progressive reputation is well-deserved, but not for things that ensure that the character of the city and its quality of life endure. The environment? High marks. The schools? Pretty good. The move to clean energy? A bit behind the residents who took the first steps, but well-intentioned.

Housing? Commercial development? Horrible about the former, over-eager about the latter.

By the time the city’s manufacturing sector moved away and the freight trains disappeared, it was already clear, back in the ’80s, that housing affordability was an issue. Instead, the City drank the proverbial Kool-Aid promising endless tax revenues from office and hotel/retail projects. Countless promises were made by developers to provide community services and amenities. Yet, when the builders didn’t deliver and vanished like carpetbaggers, the City never pursued them… but let them keep their tax breaks.

So the people who needed affordable housing got nothing, the neighborhoods that were most vulnerable bore the brunt of accommodating operations that would make anyone north of Montana apoplectic, and we’re now fighting with the State about housing expansion while wasting resources to keep builders remedy projects at bay. If even half the space given over to hotels and retail that appeal, primarily, to tourists had been earmarked for affordable housing, then staffers at City Hall wouldn’t have a 21-mile one-way commute, as does the woman I spoke with in Resource Recovery and Recycling this week.

The teachers, retail and restaurant workers, healthcare staff, and countless others who work in Santa Monica, deserve to be able to afford housing here. Yet a City Council that’s beholden to no particular constituency will never address minority problems that have a major impact.

Peter Altshuler, Santa Monica