Courts: The County Courts declared an end to cash bail for most suspects as of October 1 but a group of cities are fighting the new rules. Matthew Hall

The Santa Monica City Council will consider joining a lawsuit over the County’s newly implemented Zero Bail system at their upcoming meeting.

The Council agenda for Oct. 10 is short on discussion but long on lawsuits with 11 items scheduled for discussion during closed session and the potential to join the bail lawsuit is one of six legal discussions set for the evening.

Starting October 1, all police agencies in the county had to follow a new bail system after a court ruling in May that prevented LAPD and the Sheriff’s department from demanding cash bail for low-level offenses. However, other agencies were not covered by that ruling and at the time, the courts said they would draft new rules for bail that would apply to everyone.

Those rules came down in July and eliminated the need for money bail for specific offenses while evaluating a suspect’s risk to the public.

According to the Santa Monica Police Department, officers now have three choices: cite and release (arrestee is released at the location of the arrest), book and release (arrestee is booked in jail and then released on their own recognizance) or magistrate review (select cases referred to an on-call magistrate).

Most suspects are charged with petty crimes like property crimes, minor theft and vehicle violations that will be covered by cite or book and release. A judge will be called in when a suspect’s crimes pose an increased risk to the public. In those cases, it will be up to the court to decide what terms of release are assigned to that suspect. The most serious crimes, like murder, will not qualify for pre-arraignment release.

“The new bail schedules reflect the conclusions of the Judicial Council of California’s 2017 Pretrial Detention Reform Workgroup that pretrial systems that rely exclusively on the financial resources of the accused are inherently unsafe and unfair,” said the Los Angeles County Superior Court in announcing the new rules.

In addition to the fairness rules, proponents of the zero bail system cite studies that show reduced bail systems have not had an impact on crime rates including the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors who issued a report saying reduced bail rules during the Covid pandemic had no impact on suspects likelihood to appear in court.

However, in response to the new rules, twelve cities in Los Angeles County filed a lawsuit to delay implementation of the policy saying it is dangerous.

Whittier, Arcadia, Artesia, Covina, Downey, Glendora, Industry, Lakewood, La Verne, Palmdale, Santa Fe Springs and Vernon were the initial group to file.

The City of Glendora said its police department faces extraordinary challenges in its efforts to hold criminals accountable.

“It is our duty to this community to ensure the safety of those live here, work here, and visit,” said Glendora Mayor Gary Boyer. “The zero-bail schedule fails to support local leaders in their pledge to protect their residents, and that is unacceptable.”

Other mayors voiced similar statements.

“The Zero-Bail policy is a significant public safety concern as our residents and businesses are increasingly victimized by these lower-level offenses,” stated La Verne Mayor Tim Hepburn. “This decision to pursue an injunction is based on the joint commitment of a growing list of cities who believe this lack of regard for public safety imperils the safety and security of our residents, businesses, and law enforcement personnel.”

The request for Santa Monica to join the lawsuit over the bail system was put forward by Councilmember Phil Brock and will be discussed in closed session. If council votes to join the lawsuit, the action would be reported when the Council returns to open session.

Airport Planning

Other items include a debate over how to encourage public participation in land use planning process, specifically at the airport. According to the staff report, traditional planning systems haven’t brought a diverse and representative sampling of residents into the fold and instead, they are requesting a new lottery system for establishing citizen advisory groups.

“…participants are selected through a democratic lottery, ensuring representation across demographic factors,” said the staff report. “The process actively invites randomly chosen community members, breaking participation barriers by reaching people in their homes via mailers. Those who respond to the invitation mailer opt-in to a pool of respondents who are then selected in a public lottery selection event to participate in the process.”

Opposition to the idea began to coalesce Friday with criticism of the organization chosen to work on the new process and the possibility that the process would yield housing on the airport property.

Discussion items

In the open session, some councilmembers are asking the city to endorse the Justice for Renters Act. The act will be before voters in the November 2024 election and would expand rent control rules throughout the state. The request comes from Mayor Gleam Davis, Councilmember Caroline Torosis and Councilmember Jesse Zwick. The same trio are also asking the city to support and prepare for adoption of a new rule in Sacramento that would allow homeowners to sell small accessory dwelling units separately from the main property.

Councilman Brock is asking the city to prohibit the use of engineered countertops in Santa Monica following reports that the manufacture of those countertops is dangerous for workers.

Meeting details

Council will meet in City Hall, 1685 Main Street on Tuesday, Oct. 10. Closed session begins at 5:30 p.m. Meetings are available online via the City’s YouTube channel.

Matthew Hall has a Masters Degree in International Journalism from City University in London and has been Editor-in-Chief of SMDP since 2014. Prior to working at SMDP he managed a chain of weekly papers...