How is Mayor's Tax Measure Perverse? Let Me Count the Ways

July 14, 2022

Dear Editor,

I find it utterly hypocritical that the Mayor and others are criticizing the City Council's proposed transfer tax when it is the Mayor’s proposed transfer tax that is “perverse” ("Council Amends Brock's Rival Transfer Tax Measure for Upcoming Vote," July 14, 2022).

It is perverse that the Mayor claims that the Council’s measure is pro-development, when it is hers that will finance thousands of additional units that Santa Monica residents will not be allowed to occupy. Attempts by the Major to claim that her measure is, in some ludicrous way, less pro-growth than the council's are exercises in nonsense.

It is perverse that the Mayor’s measure will deny our democratically elected Councilmembers, and hence the voters, from managing the transfer tax revenue, instead a hand-picked board of 11 cronies will give out monies to whomever they find suitable. It is a most blatant example of taxation without representation, and an invitation to political abuse. The council is absolutely right to be opposed to this loss of control over a huge amount of city tax money.

It is perverse of the Mayor to claim that the revenue raised by the council's measure will go into a slush fund, when it will simply go to general city tax revenues, which is where all our taxes go now. Is she claiming the Council that she has controlled for 8 years is running a giant slush fund? In which case she must be the slush-funder-in-chief. It is the mayor's 11 member board that will handle the slush-fund, exempt from city council, and thus voter's control.

It is perverse that the Mayor’s measure is not adjusted for inflation, and will rapidly affect many of the homes and condos in the city, killing the house-flipping industry, and killing its sales, income and capital gains taxes.

It is perverse that the Mayor's transfer tax will stall sales of properties, delaying property tax repricing and destroying the property tax basis of the city.

It is perverse that the massive amounts of affordable housing that the mayor’s measure will build, and that will not be occupied by Santa Monica residents, will not be subject to property taxes, and thus the residents of those buildings will not be paying towards the schools, police, etc. that they are using.

For each of those $800,000 affordable apartments that will be built, we could massively expand the Preserving Our Diversity (POD) program to help many more of our struggling residents -- people who currently live in the city, and who occupy apartments that pay property taxes towards the services they use.

This would be a far more cost effective way to help Santa Monica residents age in place and stay a part of the community, rather than be forced out to pay for those from outside the city who move into gold-plated new housing that is destroying our tax basis.

The Mayor's ballot measure constrains how monies can be spent, thus preventing a massive expansion of POD. If the money went to the City general fund, the City would have the flexibility to truly help current Santa Monica residents.

In fact, many of the out-of-town people moving into the Mayor's “affordable” housing will not actually be all that low income, many will be of “moderate” income, they will just happen to be living in buildings that don’t pay property taxes. Buildings that will have replaced property tax paying buildings, and crushing the city’s property tax revenues.

It is perverse that the Mayors signature collectors emphasized the meager schools element of the measure, rather than the affordable housing monies, thus deluding those signing.

Peter Borresen
Santa Monica

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