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O'Connor Submits Signatures to Amend Transfer Tax Hike


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By Jorge Casuso

May 7, 2024 -- A showdown between top City officials and proponents of a ballot initiative seeking to amend Measure GS is brewing one day after former Mayor Pam O'Connor submitted signatures to qualify the measure for the November ballot.

O'Connor -- who is sponsoring the initiative to exempt the sale of multi-family housing from Santa Monica's transfer tax hike -- submitted 4,156 signatures to the City Clerk on Monday, according to a press release issued Tuesday.

Proponents say that under the State Constitution, a ballot measure that seeks to reduce a local tax needs to submit "the valid signatures equal to 5 percent of the number of voters who voted in the last Gubernatorial election," or 1,978 valid signatures.

They contend that Interim City Clerk Nikima Newsome and City Attorney Doug Sloan "incorrectly" stated that a higher threshold for initiative measures is required, according to the press release.

The City has not publicly released its position on the number of valid signatures required, which is normally 10 percent of the City's registered voters, or nearly 7,000 valid signatures.

"Proponents of this amendment will be seeking Declaratory Relief and an immediate hearing to require the City to place this measure on the November ballot," the press release states.

“The law is clear -- no city may impose a signature requirement that is higher than is required by the State for any measure seeking to lower a tax or fee,” said Matthew C. Alvarez, attorney for proponents of the amendment.

Sponsored by former Mayor Sue Himmelrich, Measure GS raised the transfer tax by $56 per $1,000 for Santa Monica properties that sell for $8 million or more to fund local schools, homelessness prevention and affordable housing projects.

Opponents of GS, including housing developers, say GS is chilling the multi-family housing market. The proposed initiative, they say, will spur production of new market-rate and affordable housing, making overall housing more affordable.

“It’s amazing that in only two weeks, we were able to get over double the required number of signatures turned in to make sure this important amendment is placed on the November ballot,” O’Connor said.

“It is disappointing that the sponsors of the failed Measure GS continue to harass those that support building new multifamily housing."

The alleged harassment includes "filing false complaints with the City and pushing unsound legal theories and wasting City resources in an attempt to stop people from exercising their right to vote,” O'Connor said.

The proposed measure -- which would affect sales after January 1, 2025 -- leaves the tax intact for single family homes and those commercial and industrial properties that do not qualify for the partnership exemption.

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