February 22, 2024 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

2018 SM Rent Control Board Election Guide

Where Santa Monica Rent Control Board candidates stand on all the issues.

By Sam Catanzaro

Talk about the November election in Santa Monica has been largely centered around the race for Governor, City Council and the various ballot initiatives voters will weigh in on. Not to be overlooked, however, are the five candidates running for the Santa Monica Rent Control Board.

Santa Monica is only one of 15 municipalities in California that has any rent control laws in place but the Rent Control Board only has purview to enact rent control on properties built before 1979 because of a state law known the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act. Proposition 10, a voter initiative on the November ballot, if passed would repeal Costa-Hawkins, giving the Santa Monica Rent Control Board freedom to enact more extensive rent control policies.

To understand where all the Rent Control Board candidates stand on Prop. 10, among other issues, the Santa Monica Mirror invited them all to come in for a live video interview. Three of the candidates, incumbent Nicole Phillis and challengers Naomi Sultan and Jon Mann, sat down with Mirror Editor Sam Catanzaro for a question and answer session. Here are where they stand on some key issues that should be taken into consideration before going to the polls November.

Nicole Phillis

Why she is running

“I am running for the rent control board because I believe rent control reflect the fundamental principle that housing is a human right and that the ability to age in place and with dignity should not depend on whether one can afford to own property.”

On the decline of rent-controlled housing stock in Santa Monica

“Preservation of the rent-controlled housing stock is the primary purpose of the rent control board,” Phillis said. “Obviously the loss the rent-controlled housing is concerning but I think there are a lot of reasons for it, including the fact that the condo market is really hot and growing increasingly hot and you are seeing a lot of people speculate on land in Santa Monica. And with the economic recovery, we have seen a lot of Ellis Act activity because land values have gone back up. So we are thinking of ways to address those market incentives to remove rent-controlled housing stock and replace it with other types of buildings including condos and single-family homes.

On Prop. 10

“I unequivocally support Prop. 10. Prop. 10 is the position of the California Democratic Party…it’s the position of the L.A. County Democratic Party…it’s also the position of the Santa Monica Democratic Club and many other progressive organizations,” Phillis said. “I think Prop. 10 is a clear yes because it returns local control over our rent control laws in Santa Monica. It gives Santa Monicians the ability to decide what types of buildings they want controlled.

Watch full video interview here:

Naomi Sultan

Why she is running

“The reason I have decided to run is that I have seen first hand in my own work the damage that housing instability does to our low-income tenets. Every day I speak to or meet low-income seniors, veterans, people with disabilities who are facing these unaffordable rent hikes and the threat of displacement from their homes and even potentially homelessness,” Sultan said. “I think we can do better in terms of our enhancing our rent control laws, our anti-harassment ordinance, increasing relocation benefits for tenets who are displaced on no fault of their own, also opposing corporate interests that are destabilizing our neighborhoods.”

On the decline of rent-controlled housing stock in Santa Monica

“There’s been a loss unfortunately over time of roughly about 2,000 units. Some of them due to Ellis evictions, some of them due to owner occupancy,” Sultan said. “I think it is important because we have this dwindling housing stock to try to see what we can do to stem the dwindling. I think it is important [to increase] relocation benefits for tenets that are potentially going to be Ellised and displaced but even before we get to that situation I think it is great if we can offer more assistance to those who find themselves with distressed buildings that they cannot continue to afford and are considering Ellising. Whether we can provide them counseling, connection to resources, potentially even have the City take over those buildings, maybe deed restrict them.”

On Prop. 10

“I am a huge fan of Prop. 10 because it really allows us to take rent control into our own hands again extend the benefits of rent control potentially to some of those people who are living potentially in some of those newer buildings,” Sultan said “I feel like there has been a lot of disinformation going around about Prop. 10…all that Prop. 10 does is permit local jurisdictions like Santa Monica to expand their role in rent control, change their rent control law, change their rent control law. Now we are hamstrung by Costa Hawkins which places all these limits on rent control individual cities and counties can have in effect.”

Watch full video interview here:

Jon Mann

Why he is running

“I’m not just running for Rent Control Board, I am running against the City Council. I am also a write-in candidate for the City Council. The City Clerk would not allow me to turn in my nomination papers. I had 245 signatures which is more than enough to put my name on the ballot,” Mann said. “I am the only candidate for Rent Control Board that is really resisting and fighting this coalition of special interests.”

On the decline of rent-controlled housing stock in Santa Monica

“When I first moved to Santa Monica just after rent control was passed…there was a plethora of rent-controlled housing…my rent was around $400 a month,” Mann said. “I want to put these opportunistics out of business. I want to make sure they are not renting their empty vacant apartment to corporations and Airbnb, so that is going to be more units available.”

On Prop. 10

“I am very much in favor of Costa-Hawkins being repealed but I do not think it goes far enough and I do not think the Rent Control Board is really going to push rents back because they keep saying they want to be ‘fair and balanced’ like Fox News. I do not want to be fair towards developers…I want to be fair to the residents and renters. What they have now is ‘rent de-control’,” Mann said. ”We don’t have rent control and if we do have it I want to not only roll back rents to what they were in 1978, I want to tax the speculators and developers to cut into their profits and use that money to subsidize  mom and pop landlords with retrofitting and maintaining and improving their properties so they would not have to sell to speculators.”

Watch full video interview here:

Steve Duron

Why he is running

“I am interested in finding ways to make rents more affordable in our community and at the same finding solutions to keep good landlords in our community. This will require working with and listening to all stakeholders,” Duron said. “I believe we can find a solution together that will stabilize the rental community and allow people to “age in place,” tenants and good landlords alike. I humbly request your vote so that I may continue to work on this important issues for the benefit of our community.”

On the decline of rent-controlled housing stock in Santa Monica

“The rent control board must remain diligent about protecting the rent control rental stock. For the past four years since I have been on the board we have done everything within our jurisdictional power to stabilize the rental community to allow tenants to age in place.”

On Prop. 10 

“I wholeheartedly support Proposition 10 and I strongly encourage everyone to vote for it. Passage of Proposition 10 will benefit you and people like yourself because it will do away with Costa-Hawkins which has turned our rental community into a commodity,” Duron said. “If proposition 10 passes, it will eliminate vacancy decontrol, which could reduce tenant harassment, and give local communities the ability to establish and set rental rates. Passage of Prop. 10 would also provide an opportunity for local governments to expand rent control, which would provide more affordable opportunities to live here.”

Lori Brown 

Why she is running

I was a tenant in rent-controlled apartments in Santa Monica for more
than 20 years,” Brown said. “This gives me a unique perspective and the ability to see an issue or conflict from all sides because I’ve been on every side. This also makes me a realist, which the board needs: someone who doesn’t make promises just because they sound good and then let the housing crisis continue to spiral out of control rather than make difficult choices.”

On the decline of rent-controlled housing stock in Santa Monica

“Back in 1979, when Santa Monica had the feel of a small-town beach community, there were about 39,000 rental units in the city…Today that number has fallen to some 26,000 units,” Brown said. “I know from first-hand experience that renters want to feel safe in their units, and that means doing what we can to keep landlords from raising rents through the roof. But it also means doing what we can through incentives or other means to keep landlords from
converting their properties to condominiums because they aren’t profitable anymore. It doesn’t help anyone to have rent control in place if there are no rent- controlled units left due to conversion.”

 

On Prop. 10

“Frankly, I’m not for it, and here’s why: We don’t have a handle on rent control as it is, and it hasn’t helped us address the housing crisis that has come to Santa Monica and elsewhere in California,” Browns said. “To be clear, I’m not for doing away with rent control. I’m for studying it and seeing if there are ways we can improve on it at the same time we improve on our ability to attract smaller landlords to Santa Monica and keep the existing ones in place. I’ve suggested we study a means test for annual rent increases, so that people like you might see smaller increases while wealthy people fortunate enough to have rent-controlled units might perhaps see larger ones. There has to be more fairness for everyone in rent control, and that includes landlords. As a result, I don’t think now is the right time to be expanding rent control in Santa Monica.” 

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