In this guide I’m going to give you explanations for how I’m voting on the issues facing Santa Monica residents. For what’s on the ballot for all California and Los Angeles County residents- as well as why to vote, how to vote, and my general worldview on government and CA governance specifically- please refer to my California Voter Guide 2022: Props, LA Mayor, Governor, and Everything in Between post. I highly encourage you to check it out as it will help color why I think the way that I do. Put simply, it is far too expensive to live in California and our government at the state and local levels has become bloated and inefficient. The single best thing we can do to increase opportunity for all, especially those at the bottom of the income ladder, is to decrease the cost of living. That means we need to increase housing supply, decrease energy costs, and lower taxes. These are often thought of as state level problems, but you’d be surprised at the impact that city governance can have on these issues. Let’s talk Santa Monica.
I’m a proud resident of Santa Monica and I think it has a ton going for it. Great for tourists, great for residents, the beach is epic, main street is epic, solid restaurants, community college, and solid police presence. The single best area that Santa Monica can improve in is housing. There just isn’t new supply being added. It’s too difficult to build here. And that is the only way that we can share the wonder of this place with more people and lower housing costs. Anyone who tells you the cost of housing can be lowered in any other way other than simply building more is a charlatan. More = lower cost, it’s a law of physics. Rent control won’t do it. Shitty government housing won’t do it. More regulations won’t do it. We. Just. Need. To. Build. The other thing I’ll say is that a lot of the things on the ballot talk about homelessness. We don’t have a homeless problem here. There are some drifters walking around and sometimes they take naps in public spaces. But Santa Monica has done an excellent job of preventing homeless encampments. I commend the Santa Monica Police Department for their work on this front.
Let’s riff taxes for a moment. This is more important at the state level, which I cover in my CA voter guide- so check that out for the full scoop. But cities certainly still have a large amount of leeway to levy taxes, so it’s worth covering. Being a California resident, I am extremely skeptical of any new taxes being brought to the table. And as a Santa Monica resident, I’m the same way. This city is super expensive as it is and already has plenty of tax revenue- the last thing we need is more taxes.
And one more thing. Reading the campaign websites of many of these people running for office in Santa Monica it is hilarious to me that they wear “renter” and “small business owner” as a badge of honor. First renting. For some reason these candidates love sharing that they are a “lifelong renter.” As if that’s supposed to make them more qualified. I’m of the opposite mind. Someone who has been able to purchase a home in this horribly expensive city is someone who probably has made sound financial, career, and life decisions. And “small business owner.” I am a big fan of small business- I’m helping run one. They employ about half of all workers in the United States. But I hope that one day my small business becomes a “big business.” Because that means more success, more folks employed, and a more positive impact on the world. I understand that a small business owner is typically viewed as having a more direct impact on the local community. But I just find it funny that once businesses get to a certain size, they are viewed as evil. No, actually, a big business is a small business that becomes very successful. I will always champion success. I refuse to take part in the increasingly popular societal game of sacrificing success at the altar of victimhood and failure. I therefore will welcome any future candidates who have managed by hook or by crook to build a successful large business.
Ok with all that said, let’s dive into the issues facing Santa Monica residents this election. Given it’s a local election and not a major city, there just aren’t as many resources to rely on. Mainly I used the official Santa Monica government website which hosts statements from all the candidates as well as information on each of the measures. I also found the Santa Monica Daily Press to be helpful as well.
Santa Monica City General Municipal Election, Member of the City Council
Can vote for no more than three. This is an interesting one and I encourage you to read SMDP’s assessment of the race. Here’s the skinny: “If you vote for Armen Melkonians, it doesn’t matter who else you vote for. The current council is split, 3-3, with a swing vote on hot-button issues, but Melkonians gives one faction (that of the ‘Change Slate,’ current members Phil Brock, Christine Parra and Oscar de la Torre) a dedicated fourth vote that will form a 4-3 majority on disputed issues.” I like most of what Armen has to say though I wish he was more pro building. But given he has a strong level of support and will be a solid way to support the “Change Slate”, I’m all in.
Armen Melkonians ✅ Yes. As described above, he is the vote if you want to take Santa Monica in a new direction. I like that he is concerned with the amount our city is spending on homelessness. Unfortunately he is against building more housing but it is what it is.
Lana Negrete ✅ Yes. Seems reasonable without being holier than thou. Talks of public safety. I dig it.
Caroline Tarosis ✅ Yes. Though her opening of “I am running for City Council to stand up for those in need” brings chills down my spine with images of a lawless destroyed city in the name of compassion, I like that she wants to lower bureaucratic barriers to building.
Whitney Bain ❌ No. Bain says homelessness and overbuilding are the main problems to focus on. I don’t see much homelessness in Santa Monica proper and I hardly see any new building going. We need far more building.
Ellis Raskin ❌ No. Raskin says we need to address homelessness, fight for strongest possible protections for renters, ensure the city is prepared to address climate change, and support business to recover from Covid. Homelessness isn’t a major problem in Santa Monica, renters have solid protections they don’t need more- what we need is more building to lower cost of rent, a city does not address climate change that’s a virtue signal, and covid is over.
Jesse Zwick ❌ No. Seems like a reasonable dude who wants to make Santa Monica safer and allow for the building of more housing, but I like the other candidates more.
Troy Harris ❌ No. His pitch feels like a self-help book but he’s down for more building, so I dig it.
Albin Gielicz ❌ No. He says a lot of fluffy things but I like that he wants to make it easier for businesses to thrive in Santa Monica.
Jonathan Louis Mann ❌ No. Crazy old man, simple as that.
Samantha Mota ❌ No. Respect for a young person running. But she talks about communal agriculture plots. Sounds like some communist speak to me. I'm good.
Natalya Zernitskaya ❌ No. Just a bunch of virtue signaling about homelessness and climate change.
Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District, Member of the Board of Education
Can vote for no more than four. There’s a solid rundown by the Santa Monica Daily Press on this election. The upshot is Santa Monica schools are great and even the challengers aren’t that different. Tahvildaran-Jesswein and Lieberman are the two incumbents and Mignano and Rouse are the two most in lock step with them.
Angela Diagaetano ✅ Yes. Anyone talking about fiscal responsibility is music to my ears.
Stacy Rouse ✅ Yes. Not stoked on her, I don’t know what a “conflict specialist” is. But at least she hints at the fact that Covid lockdowns were a net negative for students.
Esther Hickman ✅ Yes. Sign me up! She champions parent involvement, small class sizes, and accountability in spending.
Miles Warner ✅ Yes. Love the energy. Talks about how Covid wrecked the mental health of our kids, money should flow to teachers and classrooms not vanity projects, and wants to audit bond funds. Good on him.
Richard Tahvildaran-Jesswein ❌ No. He’s endorsed by all the Democratic elite which is always a red flag to me. From his campaign write up, he’s responsible for: “An American Cultures graduation requirement; the establishment of district-wide social justice learning standards.” I have no idea what “American Cultures” or “social justice learning standards” mean, but the latter sounds like he’s teaching our kids that their skin color is the most important thing about them and also that it’s ok to throw a brick through a storefront so long as it’s during a protest. We don’t need to raise more activists. We need to raise more inventors, technologists, builders, and entrepreneurs.
Alicia Mignano ❌ No. Her top priority is this Excellence through Equity Plan, the only info of which I can find is a 24 page powerpoint which as far as I can tell says absolutely nothing about how we can help underperforming kids. It’s classic solutioning through buzzwords. It is actually wild to read.
Laurie Lieberman ❌ No. "I’m proud to have provided leadership as our school district ensured that students and staff were safe and healthy and that learning continued during the worst of the pandemic”- translation: you are proud we closed schools, set back our children’s education, and battered their mental health. Also she wants to teach kids to “collaborate and contribute positively to an increasingly complicated world” which doesn’t mean anything. As far as I can tell when people today say “change the world” what they really mean is “talk about how things need to change but don’t actually do anything about it.” I’m sick of the platitudes.
Santa Monica Community College District, Member of the Board of Trustees
The Santa Monica Community College District is governed by a seven-member Board of Trustees elected to four-year terms by voters in the district which serves Santa Monica and Malibu. There are four open seats with five candidates vying for them. So the skinny here is basically you vote for every other candidate except the one you like the least. Let’s dive in.
Patrick Acosta II ✅ Yes. I like that Patrick wants to prioritize Santa Monica residents for admission and that he is discussing the fact that Santa Monica residents make up a fraction of the students but our citizens foot the entire bill.
Sion Roy ✅ Yes. He’s an incumbent. I like that he is discussing the Certified Nurse Assistant program which is helping fill much needed healthcare roles in LA County.
Barry A. Snell ✅ Yes. Focused on fiscal responsibility. Love it.
Nancy Greenstein ✅ Yes. Seems reasonable.
Tom Peters ❌ No. He doesn’t mention anything about fiscal responsibility but mentions a ton of different programs.
Santa Monica City General Municipal Election, Member of the Rent Control Board
There are three spots and three people running. So this election doesn’t really matter. Damn it I should have run to make things interesting. Rent control helping the housing crisis is one of those lies many tell themselves. As discussed in the opening of this guide, the only way to lower prices long term while encouraging investment from developers is to limit the regulations on building. More supply = lower cost. Fundamentally, rent control does not help address the root cause of the problem. It’s a band aid that distorts the market and does nothing to fix the actual root issue. And it forces young people to subsidize old people.
Daniel S. Ivanov, Ericka Lesley, Kurt Gonska ❌ No. I’m going to leave this one blank and not vote for any of them. They all share the same belief that rent control is necessary. Ericka claims rent control keeps our communities more diverse. The surest way to increase the amount of lower income folks that can live here is to allow more building. That’s the only way. Again, rent control is a band aid.
To address homelessness, improve 911 emergency response times and neighborhood police protection, make public areas safer and cleaner, including streets, sidewalks, parks, and the beach, and provide other vital City services, shall the City of Santa Monica increase the transient occupancy tax – which is paid entirely by overnight visitors – by 1% for hotels and motels, and by 3% for home-shares, providing approximately $4.1 million annually, until ended by voters, with all funds benefitting Santa Monica?
A "yes" vote supports authorizing Santa Monica City to increase the existing hotel tax from 14% by 1% for hotels and 3% for home-shares, with revenue going to fund general city services.
A "no" vote opposes authorizing Santa Monica City to increase the existing hotel tax from 14% by 1% for hotels and 3% for home-shares, with revenue going to fund general city services.
❌ No. I don’t feel we have a homeless or crime problem in Santa Monica. CA is already plenty of expensive for businesses and residents. I see no reason to tax ourselves even more. Especially given CA’s history of what happens when our cities spend more on homelessness. The problem gets worse, fraudsters win, and billions are wasted. We’ve seen this occur in Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Shall the measure adding Santa Monica Municipal Code Chapter 4.90 to establish designated funds for schools, homelessness prevention, and affordable housing, and an eleven-member resident oversight committee, and amending Chapter 6.96 to provide a third tier transfer tax rate of $56.000 per $1,000 of value for property transfers of $8,000,000 or more, providing an estimated $50,000,000 annually for homelessness prevention, affordable housing, and schools, until repealed, be adopted?
A "yes" vote supports authorizing the city to enact a third tier (in addition to the previous two tiers) of real estate transfer tax of $5,600 per $100,000, with revenue going to fund homelessness prevention, housing projects, and schools.
A "no" vote opposes authorizing the city to enact a third tier (in addition to the previous two tiers) of real estate transfer tax of $5,600 per $100,000, with revenue going to fund homelessness prevention, housing projects, and schools.
❌ No. CA is the most expensive state in the country. I am and will continue to be skeptical of all tax increases. This will increase the cost of living in Santa Monica and force poorer folk out / prevent them from moving here. We’ve seen what happens when CA governance has increased funding to build housing- nothing gets done and the money is incinerated.
Shall the City Charter be amended to: (a) expand eligibility requirements for service on the City’s Personnel Board to include, in addition to City of Santa Monica (“City”) residents, residents of Los Angeles County that are employed full-time within the City, or own real property in the City, or have been issued a business license by the City; and (b) reduce the term of service for Personnel Board members from five to four years?
A "yes" vote supports authorizing the city to amend the local charter to allow the city personnel board to include those who are Los Angeles county residents but work in Santa Monica, while also reducing terms from five years to four years for personnel board members.
A "no" vote opposes authorizing the city to amend the local charter to allow the city personnel board to include those who are Los Angeles residents citizens but work in Santa Monica, while also reducing terms from five years to four years for personnel board members.
✅ Yes. Ok, what the fook is the personnel board. The mission statement is: The Personnel Board is an advisory body to the City Council and Human Resources Director on matters pertaining to personnel administration and is a quasi-judicial review body for hearing employee appeals of certain disciplinary actions. In conducting its business the Board considers the rights and interests of City employees, the City administration and the citizens and taxpayers of Santa Monica. This is minor, and I think it’s reasonable that people who have a stake in the city, but don’t actually reside here, can serve on this board.
Shall the measure to enhance the City of Santa Monica’s general governmental services by increasing the one-time tax on real property sales over $8 million, and establishing an additional incremental tax of $25.00 per $1000 of the value in excess of $8 million, excepting transfers: per State law, involving tax-exempt charitable organizations, and certain ground leases; providing an estimated $12-25 million annually through February 28, 2033, subject to a five-year extension by Council supermajority vote, be adopted?
A "yes" vote supports authorizing the city to enact a third tier of property transfer tax on sales greater than $8 million of $2,500 per $100,000 (for a total of $3,100 per $100,000), beginning March 1, 2023, and expiring February 28, 2033, subject to a five-year extension given a supermajority vote by the city council.
A "no" vote opposes authorizing the city to enact a third tier of property transfer tax on sales greater than $8 million of $2,500 per $100,000 (for a total of $3,100 per $100,000), beginning March 1, 2023, and expiring February 28, 2033, subject to a five-year extension given a supermajority vote by the city council.
❌ No. Again, Santa Monica’s government has plenty in the budget and it’s already extremely expensive to live here. Adding taxes will only exacerbate that problem.
Measure DTS (Advisory)
ADVISORY VOTE ONLY: If the “Comprehensive Real Property Transfer Tax Measure” is enacted, should at least 30% of its additional revenue be used for housing assistance to protect seniors and low-income families from housing displacement, with the remainder of the additional revenue to be used for homelessness services; behavioral health services; public safety and emergency response teams for City streets and parks; reopening public libraries; after-school programs; and crossing guards near public schools?”
A "yes" vote supports advising the city to spend 30% of additional revenue provided by the Comprehensive Real Property Transfer Tax Measure (Measure DT), if it is passed on housing assistance, homelessness and behavioral health services, public safety, public schools, and public libraries.
A "no" vote opposes advising the city to spend 30% of additional revenue provided by the Comprehensive Real Property Transfer Tax Measure (Measure DT) if it is passed on housing assistance, homelessness and behavioral health services, public safety, public schools, and public libraries.
❌ No. I already think Measure DT is ludicrous. And should it pass, I also don’t think we should place heavy restrictions on what the money is used for.
Shall the measure to establish a business tax on every licensed cannabis business (including adult-use nonmedicinal cannabis retailers, distribution, manufacturing, cultivation, laboratory testing, or any other licensed cannabis business) and retailers of products containing psychoactive cannabinoids, including cannabinoids derived from industrial hemp, up to 10% of gross receipts on cannabis and/or hemp-derived psychoactive products sold in the City, which all together could generate an estimated $3-5 million annually until repealed, be adopted?
A "yes" vote supports enacting a 3% tax on non-medicinal cannabis retailers, 2% on medicinal cannabis retailers, and 1% on other licensed cannabis businesses, with a maximum of 10% gross tax at the discretion of the city council.
A "no" vote opposes enacting a 3% tax on non-medicinal cannabis retailers, 2% on medicinal cannabis retailers, and 1% on other licensed cannabis businesses, with a maximum of 10% gross tax at the discretion of the city council.
✅ Yes. The tax seems reasonable and it is about time Santa Monica sets up a framework to tax cannabis shops. SM currently has exactly zero cannabis shops so it’s time to move this along.
Shall the City Charter be amended to require intended owner occupancy of rent-controlled units for two years before tenant eviction; require owner occupancy within 60 days of vacancy; reduce the maximum Annual General Adjustment from 6% to 0.8% from 2/1/23 through 8/31/23, or average not to exceed 3%, with a 3% maximum Annual General Adjustment thereafter; and require elections only if the number of qualified candidates exceeds the number of open Board positions?
A "yes" vote supports amending the city charter to require land owners to intend occupancy for at least two years and move in within 60 days of vacancy (currently 1 year and 30 days) in order to evict a tenant, and also reduces the rent increase cap to 3% of the Consumer Price Index or $70 per month (currently 6% of the CPI or $140 per month).
A "no" vote opposes amending the city charter to require land owners to intend occupancy for at least two years and move in within 60 days of vacancy (currently 1 year and 30 days) in order to evict a tenant, and also reduces the rent increase cap to 3% of the Consumer Price Index or $70 per month (currently 6% of the CPI or $140 per month).
❌ No. I fundamentally am against rent control because it distorts the market for housing, disincentivizes more housing to be built, and generally subsidizes older folks living costs with younger folks cash. I live in a rent controlled building and am still against it. It’s basic economics, if you want to decrease the cost of something, you must increase the supply. Any government intervention that attempts to skirt this basic law of physics does nothing to solve the problem of expensive housing.
Shall the City Charter be amended to allow the Rent Control Board to disallow or modify annual general rent adjustments for rent controlled units during a declared state of emergency by the President of the United States, the Governor, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health Officer, or the City Council or Director of Emergency Services while maintaining the landlord’s ability to petition for a rent adjustment per Section 1805 of the City Charter?
A "yes" vote supports amending the city charter to authorize the rent control board to disallow or modify annual rent adjustments during a state of emergency declared by the president, governor, Los Angeles Public Health Officer, or city council.
A "no" vote opposes amending the city charter to authorize the rent control board to disallow or modify annual rent adjustments during a state of emergency declared by the president, governor, Los Angeles Public Health Officer, or city council.
❌ No. Same thought as Measure RC above. Plus, to give the city council or the director of emergency services (whoever that is) the right to simply declare a state of emergency to freeze housing costs is ridiculous.
SANTA MONICA COLLEGE AFFORDABLE HIGHER EDUCATION, CAREER TRAINING, CLASSROOM UPGRADES. To improve access to affordable education for local students, veterans, first-generation college students; provide affordable housing for homeless students; modernize instructional labs for nursing, healthcare, sustainability, media, science career training; repair/upgrade obsolete vocational classrooms/aging facilities, shall Santa Monica Community College District authorize $375,000,000 in bonds at legal rates, levying 2.5 cents per $100 assessed valuation, raising $23,000,000 annually while bonds are outstanding, with citizens oversight, public spending disclosure?
A "yes" vote supports authorizing the district to issue $375.0 million in bonds and levying a tax of $25 per $100,000 assessed value while bonds are outstanding.
A "no" vote opposes authorizing the district to issue $375.0 million in bonds and levying a tax of $25 per $100,000 assessed value while bonds are outstanding.
❌ No. Santa Monica College already has unused money in the bank and is leasing existing buildings to the local school district. Why do they need more? Many of the students that rely on SMC are not even SMC residents, so why should we fit the bill? Also, fundamentally I believe that the academic industrial complex has become way too bloated and expensive. Community college is perhaps an antidote to that, given it is much less costly. But I’m just not convinced this is a great use of funds. Plus, part of the money would go towards increasing online education. I just don’t believe our dinosaur existing academic institutions are best suited to teach the next billion students. Besides the fact there is YouTube, Wikipedia, and the sum of all human knowledge on the internet- I think the Kahn Academies of the world i.e. online first learning platforms, are how we effectively and cheaply educate the future.
This is what democracy looks like. It ain’t easy. Don’t give up. Keep fighting for better governance. Be aware of local issues. Fucking vote. “Ah, my vote doesn’t do anything”- please, don’t be a coward. Don’t be lazy. Thank you and God Bless the United States of America.
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