An Open Letter to Renters and SMRR Members About Measure AA
By Phil Hendricks
I am a 25-year member of Santa Monicans for Renters Rights who has consistently voted the straight SMRR ticket on candidates and issues. I am an 18-year employee of Santa Monica College where I served for three years as president of my union; I am a past supporter of all education bonds including raising money to promote them.
But things have changed. Few are fooled by the “education” rhetoric of AA’s promoters. We all support education as shown by our historic approval of education measures,- but Measure AA is not about education; it is another “regional center” development and expansion bond “…acquiring and/or entering into arrangements for the joint use of land, making site improvements, building infrastructure and/or constructing additional facilities thereon, for the purpose of expanding….” (From City Clerk’s full text of Ballot Measure, emphasis mine). It would bring more traffic, congestion and loss of apartments; and it has no senior exemption.
We face the worst economic crises since the Great Depression with record home foreclosures in Santa Monica, loss of jobs, loss of retirement incomes and a general decline of all economic activity. This is no time for the SMRR leadership and development promoters to further burden renters with their Measure AA. A wealthy institution that asks for $295+ million for a development and land buying scheme while it still has $100 million unspent and waiting is not concerned about renters.
There is growing disappointment in AA’s promoters who most of us had trusted for 30 years to protect school children, renters, seniors, “mom and pop” stores, and the city. Some long time SMRR member/Council Members supporting AA have reported receiving contributions from developers and builders. The AA campaign reports $346,000 in contributions as of 10/18/08 – much of it from the building and construction industry, and most all of it from outside Santa Monica and funneled through tax exempt organizations – including $100,000 through KCRW, and $50,000 through the Associated Students. Former and current SMRR Steering Committee members are now highly paid consultants and lobbyists for institutions they once identified as “the enemy”. Their endorsement and promotion of the Measure AA expansion and development plan is just one more capitulation to “out of town and out of control developers” for the benefit of themselves.
This support by our once trusted leaders for developing “regional shopping, dining, entertainment, tourist, and now education centers” has brought tens of thousands of people through Santa Monica with most of them wanting to stay. Their promotion of this overdevelopment produced economic pressures across the spectrum and gave us Costa Hawkins market rate rents that now apply to 50% of Santa Monica apartments, and still climbing; it also gave us the Ellis Act causing the ongoing loss of thousands of apartments, many of them replaced by million dollar condos that none of us can afford, while other apartments are re-rented at four times their old rents. We have seen our own “mom and pop” stores that were once a central feature of our city forced out by high rents and replaced by faceless chain stores. No one can forgive them for the traffic, congestion and destruction this brought.
The renter’s movement leadership and the elected officials that it endorsed once understood this. In their earlier days they campaigned with renters and others to stop community destroying development proposals just like AA because they and we recognized their true cost to renters, and everyone in the City; overdevelopment poisons livability – strains city services – increases traffic and congestion – undermines K-12 Unified school funding – increases demand for apartments – encourages evictions – raises rents directly.
Please join the many thousands of renters, members of Santa Monicans for Renters Rights and others who will honor our traditional community values by voting NO on AA.
Phil Hendricks, Coordinator
Bond Fatigue Committee against Measure AA BondFatigue.com
25-year SMRR member
18-year Santa Monica College Employee