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Santa Monica Council Candidates Talk Council Decisions

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By Lookout Staff

Editor’s Note: The Lookout News sent several questions to the 10 candidates running for Santa Monica City Council. Eight responded. Each answer was limited to 150 words. The Lookout is publishing the candidates' answers verbatim over several days.

October 26, 2016 -- Today's question (this one technically an instruction): Name a good decision and bad decision made by the City Council in the past four years that stand out to you.

Tony Vazquez, incumbent
One of the bad decisions was the closing of the Village Trailer Park. This resulted in the loss of true affordable housing units that we desperately need in Santa Monica. I feel one of the best decisions the City Council has made in the last four years was to move ahead with the closing of Santa Monica airport. Although we knew it would be a long, drawn out process, we heeded the clamor of the local residents to meet the challenge. Our ultimate goal is to create much needed open space and recreational facilities for the residents.

Mende Smith, challenger
The Expo Line is not a high-functional commuter solution to traffic congestion. The option to design the rail line below ground vs. above ground was not really taken into consideration by the right experts, clearly. Some people say it was all the fault of two council members, but I am not going to go into it here. By design, the Expo is not highly-efficient. The purple line should be extended as has been discussed in addition to the current rail line we have today. In my native city of Seattle in efforts to control car-traffic through main corridors, city busses offer free transportation within the downtown limits on weekdays. It is also possible to allow free bus passes to people working in the city limits as a way to keep the cars off our streets.

Armen Melkonians, challenger
Bad decision: City Council unanimously approved the new Zoning Ordinance on June 23, 2015, accelerating the destruction of Santa Monica’s low-rise character by incentivizing growth in an already built-out city. The City Council failed to address the fact that the Environmental Impact Report written for the General Plan Update in 2010 was deficient in assessing the real impacts of the planned growth in Santa Monica. The solution to this bad decision is for residents to Vote Yes on Measure LV on November 8. Measure LV will stop the aggressive growth and traffic impacts incentivized in the adopted Zoning Ordinance. Good Decision: Appointing Mario Fonda-Bonardi to the Planning Commission was a smart move by Council.

Ted Winterer, incumbent
I think we made a very wise decision to divert one-time monies such as profit-sharing from sales at The Village and ongoing revenues from the dissolution of redevelopment agencies to our affordable housing fund, since we need to do all we can to preserve socioeconomic diversity as we wrestle with replacing lost RDA money for deed-restricted housing for those earning 30—60 percent of AMI. On the same note, I think we erred with Measure H when seeking to replace part of that lost redevelopment funding – an increase in the documentary transfer tax was too abstruse for many voters and we didn’t anticipate the well-funded opposition from real estate interests.

Terence Later, challenger
Good: Attempt to sanction Pam O’Conner to get the million dollars that they wasted on the lawsuit for the improper firing of the city employee. Bad: To fight the FAA about the airport and to refuse the federal funding for safety precautions from the federal government.

Gleam Davis, incumbent
I am particularly happy that, at its retreat in August 2015, the Council elected to include the community's ability to "Learn and Thrive" as one of its top five priorities. That commitment is the foundation of all our work around wellbeing and helped us win recognition from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. I think that the City Council made a bad decision in removing the possibility of an occasional Tier 3 housing development along Wilshire and Santa Monica Boulevards, east of Lincoln. I think that placing housing on those boulevards is a crucial component of converting them from automobile thoroughfares to complete streets that accommodate transit, pedestrians, and cyclists. With the removal of the option of a Tier 3 housing project from those boulevards, at least one site has abandoned plans to build housing and, instead, will build a one-story commercial building.

Terry O’Day, incumbent
The City Council makes many good decisions, such as our minimum wage, which is the most progressive in the nation since it includes protections against wage theft and paid time off. When the City Council voted against the development agreement with Hines on Olympic Blvd. between 26th and Stewart, we got The Pen Factory instead. The developers demolished all but three walls and excavated to build parking. It demonstrates anti-environmental planning, an office-only project adjacent to a transit stop –- not one unit of housing added, much less affordable housing. Also not included -– no cut-through streets and walks or enforceable daily trip penalties to reduce traffic, no pedestrian improvements like sidewalks, no open space, no LEED certification, no contribution to parks or child care. Essentially, we got all the worst traffic impacts and none of the housing or investments in the community.

Jon Mann, challenger
Editor’s note: Although he responded to the questionnaire, he did not provide an answer to this question.


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