March 3, 2024 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

SMa.r.t. Column: City Council Endorsements

Editor’s note: These following endorsements should not be attributed to the Santa Monica Mirror. They are the opinion of Santa Monica Architects for a Responsible Tomorrow, a group of columnists who are not affiliated with the Santa Monica Mirror’s editorial staff. 

The November elections are nearly upon us. The social and mass-media onslaught of paid (and paying) interests has begun. And along with them, the solemn pronouncements of candidates for City Council and supporters of legislative and bond measures that will directly affect most Santa Monicans.

For the past nine years this group’s writings have focused on concerns regarding the city’s direction. As professionals who work and live in Santa Monica, we have tried to stress common-sense, pragmatic solutions to issues that affect most present and future members of this community. We have worked to bring attention to on-going problems in our city, and offer concrete answers that are based not on ideologies, political doctrines, or unproven theories but on facts that exist in the reality-based world in which most Santa Monica residents actually live. It is not necessary to be ideological to be an idealist.

Viewed through this lens, two candidates for City Council stand above the rest in their promise to set the city on a bright and sustainable path. None of them are perfect human beings. Like all of us, their past may contain events they may wish turned out differently. But all of them have the history, expertise and generosity of spirit and commitment to guide the city during the challenging times that lay ahead.

Lana Negrete is the very model of a homegrown renter, small business owner and entrepreneur. Ms. Negrete, appointed a year ago to a vacant City Council seat, was born and raised in Santa Monica, has long owned a widely-admired local small business, and has experienced the benefits and challenges of a resident who is committed to supporting local schools, preserving neighborhoods, solving the homelessness crisis and increasing public safety. 

A strong supporter–and beneficiary–of rent control in Santa Monica, she is the founder of the nonprofit Outreach Through the Arts, which provides music education to young folks. Her work on the City Council’s Ad Hoc Committee on Homelessness has demonstrated an ability to work cooperatively with other members of City Council and outside agencies on an issue that has been stubbornly resistant to solutions in the past. Her effort to have the city create a map that analyzes where moneys are spent, and identify the recipients of services (as well as gaps in those services) are, we believe, exactly the kind of responsible, common-sense actions that have long been absent in the city. Ms. Negrete’s successful, independent tenure on City Council in her first partial term deserves to be renewed and extended into a full next term.

Armen Melkonians, a civil and environmental engineer, is a former member of SMa.r.t. In his work, Mr. Melkonians’ problem-solving approach is highly focused, with an engineer’s attention to detail. He is deeply familiar with the way that cities (and Santa Monica in particular) use rules to help approve or block projects, and is expert at navigating the complex pathways that lead to successful projects. 

While he enjoys a deep knowledge of the way our city works, he’s not a political insider surfing the city’s glad-handing ideological waters. His intent is to fix real-life issues that affect the daily lives of folks living in the city, and he brings a pragmatist’s approach to solving deeply vexing problems. In 2014 he founded a grassroots organization named Residocracy, and then led a successful referendum against the massive 765,00 square-foot Bergamot Transit Village project that caused City Council to reverse its previous approval of that project. 

Today, Armen’s focus is on reducing crime and homelessness on our city’s streets. He believes that City Hall has become complacent in the effort to solve issues of homelessness, providing enormous sums to service providers without proper accountability. His plan to create a transparent system that sets realistic goals and milestones and then tracks results with transparency and care, dovecotes neatly with Lana Negrete’s effort to map the city’s expenditures and track the recipients of the city’s efforts. He believes–and we agree–that Santa Monica cannot solve this issue alone, and that accessing County resources for sorely-needed mental health treatment, drug rehabilitation, and permanent housing is essential to help victims of homelessness, and the city as a whole.

Police staffing levels, he says, haven’t changed in the past 20 years. Mr. Melkonians wants to increase police staffing in line with the enormous increase in visitors.  His plan seeks to adopt a “no call is too small” policy with emergency response, and to provide dedicated patrols in all of Santa Monica’s business districts and residential neighborhoods to help deter criminal activity and reduce response times. 

Armen’s approach to problem-solving, his engineering background, his unwillingness to bow to political ideologues of all stripes, and his past history in successfully organizing residents to resist abuses by corporate developers make him a City Council candidate uniquely suited for these times.

City Council desperately needs a diversity of skills, background and experience. As City Council candidates, Lana Negrete and Armen Melkonians bring ideas and abilities that have been in short supply among the city’s leadership in past years. Lana has had a very successful, independent partial first term. Armen will help provide expertise, organization, focus and attention to local concerns. We strongly endorse their candidacies for City Council.

Santa Monica Architects for a Responsible Tomorrow:
Thane Roberts, Architect, Robert H. Taylor AIA, Ron Goldman FAIA, Architect, Dan Jansenson, Architect, Building and Fire-Life Safety Commission, Samuel Tolkin Architect, Planning Commissioner, Mario Fonda-Bonardi, AIA, Planning Commissioner, Marc Verville, CPA (inactive), Michael Jolly, AIR CRE.

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