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Mayor's Transfer Tax Campaign to Submit Signatures Next Month

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By Jorge Casuso

May 23, 2022 -- Mayor Sue Himmelrich said Monday that her campaign to dramatically boost Santa Monica's transfer tax on high-end real estate plans to submit signed ballot petitions to the City Clerk by mid-June.

The proposed tax measure -- which would charge a real estate transfer tax of $53 per $1,000 on properties valued at $8 million or more to fund homeless housing -- will submit more tha 10,500 signatures, Himmelrich said.

That's far more than the 6,929 signatures -- 10 percent Santa Monica's registered voters -- needed to make the November 8 ballot.

The campaign -- bankrolled with her husband and co-sponsor, former Housing Commissioner Michael Soloff, -- has been checking the validity of the signatures by comparing them to the local voter rolls, the Mayor said.

"We're confident" the measure will qualify, she said. "We can't wait."

According to Himmelrich, the number of signatures gathered has been growing despite efforts by opponents to dissuade voters from signing.

"They're going around harassing our signature gatherers," Himmelrich said. "They're sending people with signs and fliers telling people not to sign."

The campaign has countered by recalling the signature gatherers from parking lots when opponents show up and sending them door-to-door, she said.

Peter Bosen, a leading opponent of the measure, sent an email Monday to more than 30 fellow opponents under the subject line "Himmelrich's campaign seems to be faltering."

"Even though they are still gathering I am seeing far fewer bodies on the street," Bosen wrote.

"Maybe they are running out of money, so even if they get the signatures they may not have the money left to fight the election.

"Our group has formed and shares a laser-focus on this issue. A body of literature and arguments have been established," Bosen wrote. "Now is our time to fight to the bitter end."

Once the signatures are submitted, "the City Clerk will verify that the petition contains the minimum required number of signatures within 30 days of filing," according to the clerk's website.

In the case of the local term limits initiative co-sponsored by Himmelrich in 2018, the process took between one and two weeks, said Mary Marlow, who heads the Santa Monica Transparency project that co-sponsored the successful measure.

The petitions are then sent to the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder's office, which removes any duplicate signatures or those with zip codes outside the city.

"If the raw count is more than the required number of signatures, the secretary of state instructs local officials to conduct a random sampling of the submitted signatures within 30 working days," according to Ballotpedia.

If the estimate "is more than 110 percent of the requirement, the initiative qualifies for the ballot," according to the election website.

If the estimate "is between 95 and 110 percent of the requirement, Counties must perform a full check of signatures, looking at each individual signature submitted."

Marlow said the process for the term limits measure took 30 days and proponents and opponents were not allowed to watch the verifying process.

Once the measure qualifies, the Council can either adopt it or place it on the ballot, according to the City Clerk.

If successful, the “Funding for Homelessness Prevention, Affordable Housing, and Schools” ballot measure -- which requires a simple majority to be approved -- is expected to generate $50 million a year.

Under the measure, 20 percent of funds collected -- the first $10 million -- would go to local Santa Monica schools.

The other 80 percent of the funds -- the next $40 million -- would go to homelessness prevention and affordable housing.

Any funds above $50 million would be deposited in the two funds based on the 20-80 percent formula.

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