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Meet the Candidates for Santa Monica City Council:Frank Gruber


Frank Gruber for Santa Monica City Council

Ted Winterer for City Council 2012

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark

Re-elect Robert Kronovet for Rent Control Board

Pico Business Improvement District
7th Annual Pico Festival
Sunday, October 28th

October 8, 2012 -- This is the third in a series of posts that provides the answers to questions by candidates in the November 6 race for Santa Monica City Council. The answers from the candidates will be posted in the order they were received.

Candidate Profiles --

Name: Frank Gruber

Profession: Journalist and Entertainment Lawyer

Birth place: Norristown, PA

Running for: City Council

Status: ? If you mean marital status, I’m married.

1. How long have you lived in Santa Monica? In what neighborhood do you live?

Since 1983 I’ve lived in Ocean Park.

2. Describe yourself in 10 words or less.

Lover of Santa Monica.

3. What was your first job?

First “grown up” job was Administrative Director, Odyssey Theatre Ensemble.

4. Describe your history of community involvement, if any, in 75 words or less.

Member, Board, Ocean Park Community Organization (1993-95); Housing Commission (1994-95); Planning Commission (1995-99); Treasure, Citizens for the New Civic Center; Co-Chair, campaign for Public Safety Building Bond Issue; member, Oversight Committee for Prop. X School Bond (1999-2000); member, Community for Excellent Public Schools Steering Committee (1999-2000); 2000-2012, Columnist, Santa Monica Lookout News (wrote 579 “What I Say” columns about all aspects of Santa Monica life).


5. How would you rate the current City Council? What particular decisions stand out for you that made you form that opinion?

Good: Use of redevelopment funds to build parks and Pico Library; Bad: Voting to use $50MM of redevelopment funds to renovate Civic Auditorium for private concert promoter. Good: Adopting LUCE with its overall principles; Bad: including in LUCE too much commercial office space in old industrial areas around Bergamot.

6. What is the most frequent complaint you hear on the campaign trail? What do you plan to do about it?

I hear many complaints, but more often people tell me how much they love Santa Monica. Beyond that, people complain about traffic, particularly the outbound commuters who keep us trapped here after three. I plan to focus future development on housing, and implement innovative transit strategies aimed directly at commuters.

7. Do you agree or disagree with the following statement:

There are already enough jobs in Santa Monica, so the city doesn't need more commercial development.

There are enough office jobs generating commuters during the morning and afternoon peak periods. We don’t need more office development, but other commercial development, such as hotels and appropriate retail, especially local-serving retail, can be beneficial. These jobs, however, don’t contribute so much to rush hour traffic.

8. Should Santa Monica residents be allowed to vote on major development agreements? Why or why not?

While the initiative and referendum play an important role on “big” issues about government, ballot box government for specific matters has not been good for California.

9. Do you believe developers have undue influence on City government?

No. Over the past 30 years, mistakes have been made (particularly in the late ’80s), but overall no city in the region that is a jobs center (and Santa Monica has always been one) has controlled development better than Santa Monica.

10. How would you solve the traffic problem in Santa Monica?

The problem can’t be “solved,” because of the intense travel demand on the Westside and along the 405 corridor. But traffic can be improved locally by reducing the number of car-commuters by building more housing in SM and by implementing transit strategies designed to get commuters out of their cars.

11. If Santa Monica has the authority to shut down the airport, should it do so?

Yes. I want to shut down the airport, but not only because of its negative impacts. Even if there were no negative impacts, I would advocate shutting down the airport because by doing so Santa Monica would have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create a new, public-serving landscape.

12. With which statement do you agree more:

  1. Tourism is an important part of Santa Monica's image and a major revenue source and should be encouraged.

  2. There are too many tourists in Santa Monica and businesses are catering to tourists at the expense of locals.

I agree more with (a).

13. True or False: Santa Monica has become Beverly Hills by the Sea.


14. With which statements do you agree. You can pick more than one.

Affordable Housing:

  1. Creates blight and brings crime.

  2. Pays back hotel and restaurant union workers for their political support in the past

  3. Creates more tenants to vote for Santa Monicans for Renters' Rights (SMMR) candidates

  4. Addresses a legitimate need, especially in Santa Monica

I agree with (d), and in any case Santa Monica voters have mandated that 30% of housing built here be affordable.

15. In the past ten years, the number of laws passed by the Santa Monica City Council has increased from 32 in 2002 to 48 last year. This is:

  1. A reasonable response to the concerns of residents.

  2. A council that tries to please everyone

  3. A council that believes it knows what's best for the city and likes to impose its will.

There are elements of truth in all three statements.

16. Santa Monica's contribution to employee pensions has risen from $10 million a year a decade ago to $40 million and growing today. To help pay for its growing contribution Santa Monica should:

  1. Lay off workers

  2. Generate more cash by increasing development

  3. Increase local taxes.

  4. Other

This is an issue that the City is constructively addressing through collective bargaining with employees, who have agreed to make bigger contributions to their pension and health plans. It’s an issue that needs to be monitored closely, however.

17. Do you support Measure ES, a $385 million bond to build and improve Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District facilities?

Yes. I also support Measure J on the county ballot, to extend the Measure R transportation sales tax so that more transit can be built.

18. Has Santa Monica successfully addressed the homeless problem?

Santa Monica is doing a better job since adopting the “housing first” model, but so long as people are sleeping in the streets, there is more to do.

19. Do you believe Santa Monica is a segregated city?

Yes and no. While most neighborhoods of the city have very few Latinos and African-Americans, and could therefore be called segregated, the areas that do have significant numbers of Latinos and African-Americans (notably the Pico Neighborhood) are themselves integrated with many Anglos.

20. Do community groups play an important role in Santa Monica?

Absolutely. There is a phrase I learned in college, “the logic of collective action,” and that could be a description of community life in Santa Monica.

21. Which of the following statements do you agree with.

Santa Monica is:

  1. Doing enough to encourage biking

  2. Not doing enough to encourage biking

  3. Doing too much to encourage biking

As a bicycle commuter myself, I’m somewhere between (a) and (b). In any case, what I’d like to see is more education aimed at cyclists themselves about how it’s most safe to follow the traffic rules while riding in the street and to stay off sidewalks.

22. Do you support a law banning smoking in apartment and condo units?

I support the ordinance that the council passed and then, on second reading, turned back to staff for more analysis. No one currently in an apartment should be evicted for smoking, but I support turning units into no-smoking units after vacancy.

23. What is your favorite place in Santa Monica? Least favorite place?

No one favorite, unless you count all of my neighborhood, the beach, and downtown. I especially like all the neighborhood serving commercial blocks that people can walk to from their homes. I don’t like the streets that are bad to walk on – like Lincoln Boulevard.

24. What is the last piece of music you bought?

Based on iTunes it was Surrealistic Pillow, but since that was replacing vinyl, maybe it doesn’t count.

25. If you were emperor with absolute authority for a day and could do one thing for Santa Monica, what would it be?

Cover as much of the freeway as possible with a park that would wind through the city.

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