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$345 Million Santa Monica College Bond Measure Placed on Ballot
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Harding, Larmore
Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

Convention and Visitors Bureau Santa Monica


By Jonathan Friedman
Associate Editor

July 7, 2016 -- For the fourth time since 2002, residents will vote in November whether to support facilities improvements at Santa Monica College after the Board of Trustees voted unanimously on Tuesday to place a $345 million bond measure on the ballot.

This bond would be funded through a property tax costing $8.56 per month for the average Santa Monica homeowner and $1.59 per month for the average renter, SMC officials said.

Approval by 55 percent of voters in the SMC district (Santa Monica, Malibu and surrounding unincorporated areas) is needed for the measure to pass. An SMC bond measure has never lost, with the first one passed in 1946.

The bond measure already had a major endorsement even before the SMC board placed it on the ballot.

Santa Monica City Council members voted last week to support the measure, citing among its reasons that the bond is expected to fund a joint-use project with the City to expand Memorial Park.

Prior to the vote, council members received several letters from opponents. Their general complaint was that SMC was not necessarily a Santa Monica institution because the majority of students are from other areas.

Santa Monica High School was the “last high school attended” for 4 percent of SMC students, according to the most recent statistics (from fall 2014) on the college’s website.

Regardless of whether they use SMC services, residents bear the burden of traffic and parking issues caused by the college and continue to pay off previously approved bonds through property taxes, opponents said.

“Where is the proportional community benefit for Santa Monica and Malibu residents in return for the $345 million bond indebtedness?” wrote Zina Josephs, president of the Friends of Sunset Park neighborhood organization.

City Manager Rick Cole addressed these complaints during the council meeting, saying that SMC was an important city feature.

“Reasonable people can have opinions about whether rehabbing existing college facilities should be done, how much it should cost, when it should be done and how it should be paid for, but the value of an extraordinary educational institution in this community is incalculable,” Cole said.

SMC officials also say they have statistics showing resident use of the college is strong.

Those statistics include that 27,000 Santa Monica and Malibu residents have attended SMC in some form during the past decade.

Also, about 10 percent of Samohi students attend the college through dual or concurrent enrollment programs and 40 percent of Samohi graduates attend the college “either directly or within a few years after graduating.”

Among the projects expected to be funded through the bond are the rebuilding of the main campus’ art complex and two classroom buildings that were constructed in 1952.

Also, the business building could be remodeled.

Additional projects include a partnership with the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District to replace John Adams Middle School’s auditorium and a partnership with the city of Malibu “to fund instructional enhancements to SMC’s program in Malibu,” according to SMC officials.

With the bond, SMC would qualify for up to $50 million in State matching funds, SMC officials said. This money could be used for the art complex project and to add a science wing to the main campus.

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