The Lines Have Been SMeaRRed - What's the Future of Rent Control in Santa Monica?

The Lines Have been SMeaRRed - Is this the beginning of the end of Rent Control in Santa Monica? The Writing is on the Wall - You Just have to Read it.

Over the weekend I received a political mailer from Santa Monica for Renter's Rights (SMRR).  Being intimately familiar with the biggest  overriding resident concerns in this election - that of course being over-development and the associated traffic and parking woes -  I was shocked to read the SMRR mailer.


SMRR informs the Santa Monica Voter that, "now big developers have formed a Super PAC that is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to influence our local election." They go on to warn and direct the Santa Monica voter to, "Don't let them get away with it.  Keep Santa Monica a community of low-rise human scale neighborhoods.  Protect rent control and affordable housing.  Defend local control over local planning."


Wait a minute.  Put on the Breaks.  What's going on here.  WOW!!

 It's time to react. SMRR is right. The Super PAC they are referring to is Santa Monican's United for  a Responsible Future (SMURF).  SMURF has raised at least $400,000 - mostly from big out-of-town developers -  to "independently" back those City Council candidates which they believe will ultimately vote favorably on development projects which will ultimately require City Council approval.  Millions of square feet of new construction, thousands of new apartment units - all currently in the pipeline - are waiting to be approved and built within our small 8-square mile City.  Not to mention of course the many millions of more square feet and countless tens of thousands of more new apartments which will follow, if these out of town developers are succesfull.


Thank you SMRR for warning us that if these out-of-town developers are successful in getting their slate of candidates elected, then Santa Monica may ultimately lose its protection of rent control and affordable housing.  Thank you SMRR for letting us know that we should not be fooled by these "out-of-town developers and real estate interests who put profit before people".  Thanks for giving us the heads-up about this Super PAC known as SMURF - Thanks for looking out for our future.


But wait. SMRR, you forgot to tell us who these candidates are that SMURF is independently backing.  Who are these candidates - that if they get elected - we may lose our protection of rent control and affordable housing?  I think that it's really important that we know, so that we as voters can make informed decisions. After all isn't SMRR interested in protecting Rent Control and affordable Housing.


Wait a minute! Put on the Breaks! What's going on here!  Double WOWWWWW!!!!!

Apparently SMRR is backing three of the four same candidates that the out-of-town developer group SMURF is backing.  That's right; Terry O'Day, Gleam Davis, and Ted Winterer are all backed by both SMRR and SMURF (and Shari Davis is the other candidate backed by SMURF).  So What's going on?  Welcome to Politics - Nothing is what it seems - Or is it exactly as it seems.


SMRR who is the champion of Santa Monica's Rent Control Law is warning us that Santa Monica risks losing Rent Control and affordable housing if the voters support the candidates which they themselves also support and "independently" back.


Is this the beginning of the end of Rent Control in Santa Monica?  Will all of the new non-rent controlled apartment units - which would be approved by the same SMURF and SMRR backed candidates - eventually dilute the existing percentage of rent controlled units in our city.  Will this dilution of  units, that fall under rent control, eventually lead to the overturning of rent control through a ballot measure which will not have enough Rent Control supporters to save Rent Control.


What side is SMRR on?  Have the lines been SMeaRRed?  Is SMRR really SMURF?  Is SMURF really SMRR?  Who can we trust anymore?   Who are the real players?  What is the future of Rent Control in Santa Monica?  Time will tell, but the writing is definitely on the wall - we just need to read it.


My name is Armen Melkonians, I am an independent City Council Candidate.  I did not make any alliances nor did I accept any contributions, I merely reached out to provide the Santa Monica Voter an alternate resident oriented simple platform.  As a California licensed Civil and Environmental Engineer, I offer  "Real Engineered Solutions not Political Ones" to our over-development and traffic and circulation problems. I am the only candidate licensed by the California Board of Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors who can provide real engineered solutions.   My values and ethics have never been SMeaRRed - they have never been - nor will they ever be - for sale.  If elected, my vote and voice on City Council will only belong to the Residents of Santa Monica.


Vote your conscious on November 6 - for me the lines are not SMeaRRed - Are they for you?

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Karla S November 06, 2012 at 04:41 AM
Wow, This makes a lot of sense. Its time for a New Rent Control Movement in Santa Monica. You have my vote. Karla S.
Jon Mann November 06, 2012 at 08:00 AM
You figured it out, Armen; none of the other candidates have as yet. They will after the results come in tomorrow. It will be Davis, O'Day and Winterer followed by either Shari Davis or Vazquez. This coalition between SMRR and outside developers changed politics in Santa Monica and led to LUCE being passed in 2012. The City Council is now divided between so called "Smart" and "Slow" growth. The best we can expect is that if both Vazquez and Winterer win it will change the "Smart" majority from 5:2 to 4:3 counting McKeown. I believe the ongoing effects of over development will escalate to the point that a recall will be possible.
Brenda Barnes November 06, 2012 at 01:00 PM
Thank you, Armen. You are so right. I hope many voters noticed SMRR is supporting the same candidates developers are! (Shari and Gleam Davis formed a side alliance, so by supporting Gleam, SMRR helps Shari as well, so in effect SMRR endorsed all four developer candidates!) My husband Peter Naughton, an urban planner educated at Cambridge University with 31 years experience on two continents representing responsible developers, has been working with me (I have 20 years' experience practicing law on both sides of rent control in SM) for three years (!) to stop the Village Trailer Park destruction. It irritated a lot of people that we figured out early on that SMRR no longer can be trusted, as cannot the Rent Control Board. Nonetheless, reality is--recognizing it is the first step to dealing with it. If people want to stay in denial, that is their problem. We wanted to keep our homes from being destroyed, so we had to recognize not all past friends were still friends. We were both impressed by your plan to make SM self-sustaining. We have been saying someone has to have a plan to run the City without developer money, or we are lost. People cannot have exactly the right skills and three years to spend fighting developments one at a time. The developer onslaught has got to be stopped at the source. That--as it was in the 70s, which is why rent control passed--is at the Council. I therefore certainly hope you, Smith, Mann and Seldon are elected.
Brenda Barnes November 06, 2012 at 01:13 PM
I hope Jon is wrong. We have seen so much support on the eastside with our picketing in front of the Park every M-Th 5:30-6:30. People seem as fired up about overdevelopment--and the arrogance of the current Council--as we are. Maybe too many take their SMRR cards to the polls with them still, so Jon may, sadly, be right. However, I do agree a recall is already started, if those same developer lapdogs get elected. They have set the Village Trailer Park hearing for Nov 13 so the current Council can approve the development agreement 5-2. This is totally illegal, but unimportant in the long run. The key illegality is at the RCB level. Maybe Jon is right, though, that we should not even try to get an injunction against their approving it--just let the voters see what will come if this Council isn't changed. 23 development agreements already set, millions of more square feet, five-story buildings until no one has sunshine or can see the sky. Developers never stop, until they have ruined the place they came to profit from. We switched to a radio Internet show from 4 to 6 daily, when Daylight Saving made it too dark to picket during rush hour. You can call in at 1-347-884-9821 and hear the show, and be on it if you want. No two-minute limits! No pre-arranged charade agenda so you don't get to say what you wanted to say, either. This City is so screwed up--if people know it, they will vote against it. The old reputation can only save it just so long.
Roberto Gomez November 06, 2012 at 01:30 PM
As I have stated all along. The SMRR has been infiltrated by the deveopers. How else would the members at large vote to not endorse certain candidates, and then go into special meetings that turn out endorsements on candidates that the SMMR members at large did not want endorse. So the end result is that the SMURF has it's Sister, SMMR back the very same candidates that SMURF endorsed. Are the people in Santa Monica that blind or stupid to not see this! Armen I agree with you. Roberto Gomez Formerly a Candidate For City Council
Armen Melkonians November 06, 2012 at 10:50 PM
Brenda, The one thing that stuck out for me as a grass-roots newcomer to politics was something that one of the candidates told me. "Democracy is a participatory sport, unfortunately too many people watch it from the sidelines." I believe that the fight to save Village Trailer Park can not be given up. It would be a travesty to watch the destruction of Village Trailer Park from the sidelines. Village Trailer Park is the most important and significant Development Agreement which will come in front of City Council for a vote. If approved, the sky is the limit for the rest of the City. The fact that it is scheduled to go up again in front of City Council, so shortly after the election, tells us how confident the developers and the Council are, about not only the results of the election today, but also of the fate of the Park and that of the City. The Fight must go on to save Village Trailer Park. The proposed Village Trailer Park Destruction Project is a test - by the power players - of the resolve of the citizens of Santa Monica to protect not only their way of life, but Rent Control in general. Will the people of Santa Monica watch the destruction of Village Trailer Park from the sidelines? In my opinion, the answer to this question is what SMURF, SMRR, and the real power players behind them are waiting for.
Brenda Barnes November 07, 2012 at 05:14 AM
The amazing thing to me about Villager Trailer Park is we are homeowners with rights under both state law and rent control that other homeowners do not have. Truly, if they can bulldoze our homes, anyone else's will be easy. The developers already got all the rental housing, with Ellis. Now they want homes people own. There really is no end unless we get powerful enough to stop them. However, there are many ways to defeat this one. We have 57 separate legal grounds--and counting. Every time anyone in the City government does anything now, it's a new cause of action. They realize they were sloppy at the beginning, thinking there was no opposition so all they had to do was satisfy the developers. But it's too late to correct their mistakes. Therefore, we could just get an organization together to fund lawyers and defeat them in court the way Lincoln Place did LA. I do think having to wait that long would discourage other developers, too. It's not the easy pickings they were promised by Eileen Fogarty and David Martin, to say nothing of Richard Bloom and all the other DLs (developers' lapdogs). I also think it has been interesting that the DLs had to lie to the voters to get any votes. They had to pretend to be green and for "responsible" growth, so at least they realize the voters know what they don't want. They're just confused about how not to get it. If we educate the public, they are on our side already.
JohnCySmith.com November 07, 2012 at 10:01 PM
It certainly IS interesting to note which groups back which candidates. One well-known Santa Monica neighborhood leader mentioned the following one to me recently... The "SMURF" slate was the same as the foursome endorsed by "The League of 'Conservation' Voters." Coincidence?
Jon Mann November 07, 2012 at 11:55 PM
It is interesting to note all the misrepresentations from the PACs and the ads in the local press... Most of us who weren't supported by special interests ran honorable campaigns, but that's not how politics works in Santa Monica. You can't win without the endorsements and contributions, so everyone now on the council is compromised. Winterer, Vasquez and even McKeown, after all is said and done, are also part of the SMRR patronage machine... The campaign ended as it always does. The difference between smart and slow growth is infinitesimal. The only way to throw out ALL the bums is to hold a recall and wake up the apathetic voters who continue to vote for the more of the same.. There is hope, however; one thing this campaign brought out is that there are enough irate and informed voters to mount a recall... The council will always view a Virtual Town Hall as a threat to their power base and will neNEVER allow the people a real voice in government.
Brenda Barnes November 08, 2012 at 08:24 AM
I wonder if any more people would do anything but follow their SMRR cheat sheet even in a recall. I think all people really need to see is what SMRR did this time--endorse the same candidates the developer PAC did, adding on Vasquez, who's not got one idea that I heard. The exit polls the Patch did showed people were just following their SMRR cheat sheets. Maybe it would be different if they had nothing else to vote for, but we'd sure have to be careful of the developer machine, as with Prop T.
Brenda Barnes November 08, 2012 at 08:31 AM
McKeown is definitely compromised, which was shown by his total silence on Davis and O'Day. As is his total silence always in Council meetings n really confronting them. Being in the minority is easy when he still touts Expo and spends the developer money the same as everyone else. Plus has an overpaid consulting job at SMC, I heard--not sure about that, as the info I had on O'Connor having an overpaid water board job turned out to be Judy Abdo. But that doesn't matter, really--it's the favors they all get, for years after they leave the Council, all of them. From their wives to their kids--all the way down the line. Money in politics is the source of the corruption, no matter what level you look at. That's why Shriver wasn't interested--the petty grubby for money for themselves is obscene, really, and particularly for someone who has money. It hurts us all so much.
Brenda Barnes November 08, 2012 at 08:36 AM
We can delay Village Trailer Park until the Council changes or we win, whichever comes first. I hope the Council changes, as we don't want to take the City's money, but if we have to fight for years we'll have to do that to pay the lawyers.
Jon Mann November 09, 2012 at 12:52 AM
You are right on, Brenda. McKeown is compromised. He works for SM/MUSD as a consultant. Bloom also got on that gravy train working with non profits. That's where a lot of city funding goes and it pays to have the mayor on the payroll. (that's why they call it payROLL; pun intended!~) I wish Bauer or some of the other local columnists would do a little investigative journalism and expose ALL the present and past councilmembers, and their SMRR cronies, have been dipping into the public till.
Brenda Barnes November 09, 2012 at 01:40 PM
I'll see what I can do to make that happen. Bauer did a good column on SMRR.
Jon Mann November 09, 2012 at 03:18 PM
Bauer sometimes comes out with some dirt on these guys, but he doesn't follow up as thoroughly as I would like. He is an angry guy and is easily provoked for, especially when he can't refute an argument. He loses control of his emotions andbecomes irrrational. The blogs actually do a better job of exposing some of the cronism, revolving door practices, corruption, and other conflicts of interest.
Jon Mann November 09, 2012 at 03:33 PM
Bauer does comes out with dirt on these guys, sometimes, but he doesn't follow up as thoroughly as I would like. He is an angry guy and is easily provoked, especially when he can't refute an argument. He loses control of his emotions and becomes irrrational. The blogs actually do a better job of exposing some of the corruption, cronyism, revolving door practices, and other conflicts of interest.
Brenda Barnes November 09, 2012 at 05:37 PM
I have a few ideas who might do it. I was shocked this week how many notices paid for by the City were in the Daily Press--what a conflict of interest that is! Ashley Archibald is a great reporter, but limiting the forum to developer lapdogs and John Smith was unconscionable. We've got our own corporate press problem. Actually doing the legal case for Village Trailer Park has made us notice all the problems in the Planning Department. Peter's thinking of writing a Ph.D. thesis at Cambridge on this case study of how a city goes bad. It's actually more of a structural problem than one would think. When I was a manager for the Rent Control Board, I refused to let my department be at City Hall. The Charter says keep the Board separate from the Council. When they stopped doing that, it was inevitable the Council would take over. Mary Ann Yurkonis personally was also very good in legal matters and very strong personally also--we don't have anything like her now. It's also interesting how many other freeloaders on the public trough they have. Do you know WISE? And Dial-a-Ride? Do nothing for non-paying clients. And Community Corp of SM. Co-Developer of the Village of SM!!! I think some of this is criminal. We are preparing a RICO submission to the US Atty General about stealing TORCA money to buy Mountain View Mobile Inn and then harassing tenants for 10 years, and now what they've done to VTP. We should get some real investigation there.
Jon Mann November 09, 2012 at 11:02 PM
Good luck, I wish you success! What this city needs is for the voters to wake up and Robert Myers, whom the city council fired, back as city attorney!
Brenda Barnes November 10, 2012 at 11:45 AM
Bob would never have sold out rent control the way the Council has, that's for sure. In fact, his principles are why they fired him and got such a poor substitute. Marsha Moutrie was a second-rate Rent Board lawyer, so that's what they wanted, someone who would do what they said, tell them some law justifies whatever they want to do. Have you looked up any of the cases they claim say whatever the Council wants? Ridiculous. They say the opposite.
Danielle Charney April 06, 2013 at 11:08 PM
Dead on Amen- and well said- I believe the intent is very clear to end rent control- have you tried dealing with that dept of late? Not the same as when the wonderful Beth Leder-Pac worked there or Barbara Collins worked in the city manager's office- they are not interested in helping and Community Core is tailored to keep low wage workers and rid the city of it's oldest and most needy and vulnerable residents- we have 55 million for a park to connect two huge projects but no money to revive and refund the Section 8 Program - the only program that really protected the most needy- oddly - the few vouchers available are funneled from the actual list to those who go through the pet programs - OPCC, Upward Bound, Step -Up etc- most people in those programs are not SM residents- and they get vouchers while the needy and deserving long time residents do not- SM is owned by developers- so is SMRR - we must stop it


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