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Hotel Union Flexes Muscle at SMRR Convention

Bob Kronovetrealty
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By Jorge Casuso

September 12, 2022 -- High humidity and COVID fears resulted in a record low turnout at Sunday's Santa Monicans for Renters' Rights (SMRR) convention, paving the way for the hotel workers union to flex its political muscle.

The 43-year-old tenants group endorsed the three City Council challengers backed by UNITE HERE Local 11 -- Rent Board Commissioner Caroline Torosis, Planning Commissioner Ellis Raskin and public policy adviser Jesse Zwick.

The union's caucus cast nearly two dozen of the 91 ballots in the Council endorsement race, helping to eliminate incumbent Lana Negrete in the second round and push Zwick over the 55 percent threshold in the third round, according to vote tallies shared by SMRR officials.

The union also helped its three endorsed School Board candidates -- incumbents Richard Tahvildaran-Jesswein and Laurie Lieberman, and challenger Alicia Mignano -- in their first-round sweep in the race for four School Board seats.

The three chosen candidates are facing an organized slate of four challengers trying to gain control of the seven-member Board ("School Board Slate Eyes Major Shake-Up," September 1, 2022).

SMRR members also resoundingly endorsed Measure GS, Mayor Sue Himmelrich's $56 per $1,000 transfer tax hike for properties that sell for $8 million or more to fund affordable housing, homelessness prevention and public schools.

And they overwhelmingly rejected Measure DT, Councilmember Phil Brock's $25 per $1,000 rival transfer tax measure to boost City services and programs cut back during the coronavirus shutdown ("Opposing Arguments Promise Bitter Transfer Tax Battle," August 10, 2022).

As expected, the tenants group supported Measure RC, which would reduce the maximum allowable rent hike on rent controlled units from 6 percent to 3 percent, and Measure EM, which would allow the Rent Board to disallow or modify general rent adjustments during a declared state of emergency.

In addition, SMRR members --- who braved the heat during out outdoor convention -- voted to endorse a $375 million Santa Monica College bond measure that, among other things, would finance new high-tech hybrid classrooms and help build housing for homeless and low-income students.

In two races Santa Monica voters will help decide, SMRR members voted to back West Hollywood Councilmember Lindsey Horvath for County Supervisor and LGBT activist Rick Chavez Zbur to replace former Santa Monica Mayor Richard Bloom in State Assembly District 51.

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