SANTA MONICA CITY MEASURES
FF — YES
This measure would strengthen tenant protections by addressing shortcomings in rent-control laws that have become apparent over the years. It would, for example, prevent a landlord from evicting a widow from an apartment on the grounds that she was not the “registered” tenant.
GG — YES
Gives Rent Control Board members the same health benefits as other city officials and increases their meeting honorarium for the first time in 20 years.
HH — NO
This measure would replace one form of city government with another. Currently, voters can cast ballots for every City Council position. And the office of mayor is largely ceremonial, with the mayor selected by fellow council members for the role of running meetings and representing the city at events. Most, but not all, smaller cities operate this way.
HH would divide the city into districts — each of which would elect its own council member. The mayor would be elected citywide and become a center of power. Many larger cities, including Los Angeles, use this system.
Either election system could work here. The best argument for HH is that the comparatively downscale Pico neighborhood would finally get one of its own elected to city government. But more broadly speaking, Santa Monica is not on the verge of a transition from small city to large.
The subtext of this proposition is an effort to shake up the current balance of power in Santa Monica, which narrowly favors renters and low-wage earners. That's one reason to oppose this measure. Another is the kitchen-sink nature of HH. This measure combines election districts with a new mayoral system and even term limits. Enough already.
II — NO
Allows the conversion of rental units to condos in a way that purports to be pro-renter. Let's see, it's favored by landlords and opposed by renters. You do the math.
JJ — YES
Santa Monicans may be forgiven if they think they've been through all this before. For several years now, their city government has been endeavoring to mandate a living wage for the poverty-wage workers at the city's pricey beachfront hotels. Two years ago, Santa Monica's hotels waged pre-emptive war on the proposal, funding a campaign for a ballot measure, KK, which purported to establish a living-wage ordinance while actually prohibiting the city from enacting one. City voters saw through the sham, and the measure was defeated. Then, after commissioning a highly reputable academic study to gauge the need for such an ordinance, the City Council enacted a statute, only to see the hotel industry petition to put it on the ballot rather than have the council ordinance simply take effect.
So on Election Day, Santa Monicans are being asked to vote up or down on the city's pending living-wage ordinance. The measure requires the largest employers of service-sector workers along Santa Monica's coastal corridor to pay their workers either $10.50 per hour with health benefits or $12.25 without. The measure will cover roughly 2,000 workers at the 47 beachfront businesses that gross at least $5 million annually. The vast majority of those employees work for such high-dollar coastal hotels as Shutters and Casa del Mar (which are owned by Goldman Sachs investment funds) and Loews. Only one coastal-zone restaurant does enough business to come under the law's jurisdiction. (For more about the ordinance, see Edmund Newton's article.)
Up to now, living-wage statutes have covered either city or county workers, or workers employed by private-sector contractors with cities and counties. This ordinance now expands the concept to the beachfront hotels, as they are doubly the beneficiaries of city policy. First, Santa Monica spent roughly $180 million in public works and redevelopment funds spiffing up the beachfront area. Secondly, city voters froze any new coastal hotel development in a ballot measure 12 years ago, creating a monopoly for the existing hotels. Public tax dollars should not be subsidizing poverty-level wages in either public- or private-sector jobs. After all that Santa Monica voters and taxpayers have done for the Ocean Avenue palazzos, they have the right to demand that these hotels stop creating poverty in their midst. We strongly urge a Yes vote.
KK — YES
This measure allows for more flexibility in the use of housing funds that sit idle because of prohibitive restrictions. The money must still be used to address housing needs.