America may have voted for Change, as the watchword of the Obama campaign had it, but Santa Monica reelected all of the incumbents running on November 4 in every race on the local ballot. The only non-incumbents to win office were Ben Allen in the School Board race and Christopher Braun in the Rent Control Board race, but there were more open seats than incumbents running in those contests, and all the incumbents running were reelected.
Proposition T, which would have put a cap of 75,000 square feet per year on commercial development with certain exceptions, failed to gain voter approval, with the no vote gathering 55.92 percent against 44.08 percent in favor of the measure. Propositions AA (SMC bonds) and SM (amendments to the telecommunications provisions of the User Utility Tax) both passed.
In the City Council race, Bobby Shriver – notwithstanding he was the only incumbent candidate to support the unsuccessful Proposition T – led all candidates with 18,755 votes representing 18.24 percent of the total votes cast. (This is as distinguished from the total number of voters, since each voter could cast up to four votes – the number of open seats; Santa Monica has 58,367 registered voters, and, for example, there were 32,148 voters casting ballots on both sides of Proposition T.)
Shriver was followed in the Council race by Richard Bloom (15.59 percent), Ken Genser (14.76 percent), and Herb Katz (13.27 percent). The unsuccessful challengers were led by Ted Winterer (9.49 percent) and Susan Hartley (7.37 percent).
Proposition T attracted much attention – and money – in the campaigns leading up to November 4. The opposition was particularly well financed, but that opposition was also fueled by a wide-ranging array of local community leaders and organizations in response to the grass roots support for the measure.
Diana Gordon, co-chair of the Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City which sponsored the measure, said, “Thousands of residents have voted that they believe our city is failing to manage traffic and overdevelopment. This residents’ coalition has grown broader and stronger and will continue to fight for residents’ quality of life. We were outspent more than 10 to one, and if this had been anything close to a level playing field, T would have overwhelmingly passed. In the end, the out-of-town developers defeated T.”
Calling all the attention to funding sources a “distraction,” Terry O’Day, who co-chaired the Save Our City campaign against T, said, “We’re really pleased that the voters were able to see through the claims of traffic reduction and really get to the facts. Ultimately, it was the merits of the policy proposal.”
City Councilmember Kevin McKeown, who supported T, put the outcome in some perspective: “Let’s not forget almost half of Santa Monica, despite dire warnings from developers, voted to slow down the commercial growth of our city. In the new spirit of our inclusive Obama Nation, those voices need to be heard and respected along with the victors’.”
The $295 million SMC bonds, which generated an unusual amount of controversy for an educational bond measure in the Santa Monica Community College District, needed a 55 percent vote to pass and easily met that requirement by getting 62.05 percent approval against a 37.95 percent no vote.
The telecommunications amendments to the User Utility Tax, promoted by the City as technical adjustments to bring the law up to date in the wake of technological changes without changing the tax rate, also generated opposition that many found unexpectedly stiff. It narrowly passed with 52.15 percent of the vote.
In the School Board race, first-time candidate Ben Allen led all candidates with 27.77 percent of the votes, followed by incumbents Maria Leon-Vazquez (26.73 percent) and Jose Escarce (23.47 percent), closely followed by the unsuccessful Chris Bley (22.04 percent).
Joel Koury, who chairs the Rent Control Board, was reelected with 43.27 percent of the votes cast. In the race between first-time candidates for the other open seat, Christopher Braun (29.06 percent), who had the SMRR endorsement, just edged Robert Kronovet (27.68 percent).
In the SMC Trustees election, the three incumbents were reelected handily: Susan Aminoff (28.41 percent), Robert Rader (27.60 percent), and Margaret Quinones-Perez (26.52 percent). Challenger Heidi Hoeck drew 17.47 percent of the votes cast.