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Santa Monica Ballot Will Include Two Sales Tax Measures
Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark
Roque & Mark Real Estate
2802 Santa Monica Boulevard
Santa Monica, CA 90404
(310)828-7525 -

Harding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP  law firm
Harding, Larmore
Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

Convention and Visitors Bureau Santa Monica


By Jonathan Friedman
Associate Editor

June 30, 2016 -- Shoppers in Santa Monica could soon be paying more money in sales tax if two measures -- one local and another countywide -- are approved in the November election.

The Santa Monica City Council voted 5-0 (Kevin McKeown and Pam O’Connor were absent) on Tuesday to place a half-cent tax hike on the ballot.

Also, the council voted to include a non-binding companion measure recommending the tax money support the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) and affordable housing programs.

These decisions came five days after the board of directors for Los Angeles County’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) voted 11-2 to place a half-cent tax increase on the ballot that would support transportation projects.

If both measures pass, Santa Monica’s sales tax rate would rise to 10.5 percent, tied for the highest in California.

“I think that creating a community where people can afford to live and not spend unreasonably high amounts of their income on housing is [important],” Santa Monica Councilmember Gleam Davis said prior to voting.

She tied together the issues of affordable housing and education, saying her research shows housing instability has a direct impact on academic achievement.

“When [children] are housing insecure and unfortunately food insecure, which can be a result of having to pay too much for housing, it is much more difficult for them to learn,” Davis said.

Including support for schools in the companion measure was not just attractive to council members because they want to strengthen local education, it also gives the tax measure a better chance of passage.

Separate polls conducted this year showed residents were more likely to support a tax measure if the revenue went to education and affordable housing.

They were less supportive of a tax funding affordable housing programs alone or a combination of affordable housing and parks programs.

This voter sentiment was proven at the ballot box six years ago with the passage of Measures Y and YY ("Sales Tax, Council Advisory Measure Win Big," November 3, 2010).

Those dual measures featured a half-cent sales tax and a recommendation that half the money support schools.

SMMUSD Board of Education President Laurie Lieberman and Vice President Ralph Mechur encouraged council members to support the new proposals.

“Our district would benefit greatly from an additional reliable source of revenue,” Lieberman said.

She said the money could be used for ongoing maintenance, technology improvements, instructional assistants and expanding preschool programs as well as “otherwise stabilize the budget and protect against the instability that is caused by the constant fluctuation of state revenues.”

The Y and YY victories were in contrast to the loss of Measure H two years ago. That proposal would have raised the real estate tax on high-priced homes.

Measure H lost by a significant margin, although the companion Measure HH recommending the tax revenue support affordable housing programs won.

The California Association of Realtors spent $172,000 to defeat Measure H.

One argument from opponents was that it would lead to increased housing construction. This was possibly enhanced by several of the donors to the pro campaign being development interests.

In the immediate aftermath of Measure H’s defeat, Councilmember McKeown told The Lookout that low voter turnout was a cause, saying “conventional wisdom is that a low turnout tends to mean less participation by more progressive voters" ("Defeat of Measures H and HH May Signal Shift in Affordable Housing," November 18, 2014).

He also looked to the victory of the companion measure as proof that voters supported increased funding for affordable housing programs.

“The passage of HH would seem to indicate that the issue with H was more the way the money was to be raised than an unwillingness to create affordable housing,” McKeown said.

City staff will present ballot language to the council for final approval on July 12.

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