June 20, 2024 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

Navigating New Horizons: An In-Depth Interview with Santa Monica’s Mayor Phil Brock

Phil Brock Discusses His Vision, Priorities, and His Love of the City 

By Dolores Quintana

Lifelong Santa Monica resident, head of the Studio Talent Group, and member of the Santa Monica City Council, Phil Brock, has been elected by council members as the new Mayor of Santa Monica. He symbolically took office on Tuesday night at the weekly City Council meeting. He will have a term of office as mayor for the next year or until December 2024.

We spoke with Mayor Brock about his vision for the future of Santa Monica, his first priorities, the safety of residents, and dealing with the issue of homelessness. We discussed his plans for community engagement, how he wants to infuse pride in the city’s history into everyday life, and his years of community service. 

Dolores Quintana: How do you become mayor of Santa Monica? 

Phil Brock: It’s an honorary post that the voters do not choose. It is an office that is selected from within the city council. We have made a change; from now on, the most senior person on the council with the most votes will become mayor for one year. 

Dolores Quintana: Would you like to tell me about your history with the city of Santa Monica and the City Council?

Phil Brock: I’m a native, second generation. My mom lives on 12th Street. So I’ve been here all my life; I went to Santa Monica Public Schools. My first job was at the Boys Club, which is now the Boys and Girls Club of Santa Monica. I have spent my normal life and my business life here. But the part that’s really about Santa Monica has been the nonprofits. I’ve worked for 14 years as a Recreation and Parks Commissioner and four years as an Arts Commissioner—six years on a Santa Monica Malibu School District Advisory Committee.

And now, presently, I’m on the Board of Elks, the previous president of Kiwanis, and a board member of Lions. I’m vice chair of the Salvation Army and the president of my high school alumni association, Samohi Alumni. I’ve done a ton of volunteer duty duties in the city, and I help whenever and wherever I can. I have a special affinity for helping children, which is why I’m in Lions, Kiwanis, and Elks. Elks also assist veterans in need. So, I have a lot of history helping charities, doing charitable work in the city, and volunteering for almost 30 years. 

Dolores Quintana: Wow, you have a pretty busy schedule. 

Phil Brock: Yeah, all the time. With the charity work I’ve done and then City Council, it is an extension of that, but you get to try and help your neighbors throughout the whole city as best you can.

Dolores Quintana: What else do you think you bring to the table as Mayor?

Phil Brock: I originally brought common sense and pragmatism to the table. Those were two huge parts of what I was elected for: to use common sense in helping govern the city and not to forget residents because residents, for a long time, felt that it was all about development and that they were being ignored. So, I pledged that I was never going to ignore our residents.

Dolores Quintana: How many times have you been elected to the City Council so far? 

Phil Brock: This is my first term on the city council, elected in 2020. I was the top vote-getter. 

Dolores Quintana: So you have a lot of history with the city. Obviously, you’re a native, and you’ve worked in so many with so many charitable organizations. You have been in service to the city for a while. You also own your own business, correct? 

Phil Brock: My company, The Studio Talent Group, has been in the city for 28 years.

I own the Studio Talent Group. It’s my day job and Kathy’s day job, too. I represent actors, actresses, and writers. Since 1995, it has been a long time, but even my company is headquartered here. 

Dolores Quintana: You’ve been dedicated to the city of Santa Monica. Now that you’ll be mayor, even though it is largely an honorary position, are there things you would like to do for the city and the residents while you are in office? 

Phil Brock: The first duty of every city council person and every mayor in every city worldwide is to do their best to keep their residents safe. Okay, we’ve had issues with public safety over the last four years. My first and foremost job is to do my best to ensure we keep our residents, businesses, working force visitors, and everyone as safe as possible.

I look forward to working with our police and fire departments to do even more to help our residents feel safe. That’s that’s the first priority. Second priority: obviously, we’re in a homelessness crisis in Santa Monica and throughout many areas of the region and the nation.

That’s very important. So, we have to find ways to reduce homelessness. We have to find ways to get the supporting agencies more involved. We need help from the county. We need help from the state; we need help from the federal government. We are shouldering an undue burden. In Santa Monica, with over 1000 homeless people on our streets in the city of 8.41 square miles. That’s untenable; we’re overwhelmed as much as we are a very compassionate city and want to help everybody. So, while we have to show compassion and want to show compassion for those who are unhoused, we also need to show compassion for our residents. We also need to show compassion to small businesses serving Santa Monica customers. That’s very important. That’s a second top priority: reducing homelessness, reducing the behavior, enforcing our laws, and helping get people off the streets.

Because if we leave them on the streets, they’ll die on our streets, and that’s an unbearable burden for the residents of the city—an unbearable burden for all of us. So, to me, that’s a second critical priority.

Dolores Quintana: What else are you focused on?

Phil Brock: Beyond that, it’s our 150th anniversary in 2025, 18 months from now. On July 14, 1875, the city that became the modern city of Santa Monica was founded. I want to make sure that our residents remember or have more acknowledgment of our city’s history and our city’s contributions. The fact that we are a beachside paradise that is unique and distinct from Los Angeles. I want to recover that feeling that the spirit of Santa Monica lives, that we can thrive and overcome every problem in our city. So, at every city council meeting, there will be a taste of Santa Monica’s history. 

Dolores Quintana: As a reminder.

Phil Brock: It can be about a park, a person who lived here, or a particular situation. But all year, we’re going to highlight Santa Monica’s history. Then, I want to work with our residents on public-private partnerships to make sure that we show them that we are an artistic city. We should show that we have writers and producers, directors and actors, talented painters and artists, and people in every part of the arts who are part of Santa Monica. Let’s make that public.

Let’s have public art in our parkways and on our streets, and let’s make sure that when people come to our beach, they don’t only take a few grains of sand. But they also take home some more knowledge about this special place. So we have not only beach culture but also so many different things happening in Santa Monica that we should be proud of. I think because of the pandemic and the 2020 civil unrest, we’ve lost part of that feeling that we’re special. We need to regain it because that feeling will spread to every resident in our city. I’m going to concentrate a lot on things like that.

Dolores Quintana: I know there has been a lot of attention on the downtown area of Santa Monica, as you know because it is the central area, which is very important. It’s the heart of the city. But other areas like Ocean Park and Montana, which are also part of Santa Monica, are highlighted less because they’re not the city’s central area.

Phil Brock: But you know, they’re so important. From nine to noon on Saturday, I was in downtown Los Angeles with state and local officials talking about crime and homelessness. I went to Bergamot Station at noon because they were celebrating their holiday. Then I went to Montana Avenue, right where the streets had been closed for a holiday celebration. Then I went to Main Street and counted down the lighting of the Christmas tree because that was another distinct area. So it can’t always only be about Downtown. 

It has to be about our neighborhoods, appreciating them, and recognizing that. The great part of the city is being able to go to Ocean Park and walk Ocean Park Boulevard, have pizza, and go to the cool market there. Go to some of the stores that are opening or go to Main Street for a different experience. So, I want all areas to thrive. But Downtown has been where we’ve seen the most dissonance right now because so many stores have closed.

It’s not only about just putting a Band-Aid on Downtown. It’s bringing our central business district back and making sure that shop owners and employees in the shops feel safe. Restauranteurs feel their customers won’t be bothered and get those stores back in. Get rid of those empty spaces. But it’s very important that Montana Avenue thrives, as well as Ocean Park and the Pico neighborhood. I’m proud that we have different neighborhoods in the city. Very proud of that. 

Dolores Quintana: It’s something that is very special about Santa Monica. Do you feel that the city’s different neighborhoods have their own character and personality?

Phil Brock: Personality and also a sense of place. Yes, absolutely, and I saw it as I traveled around the city the other day. I want people to be not only proud of the city but also extra proud of the neighborhoods they live in. Let’s do more to bring the arts to each neighborhood.

Dolores Quintana: You’re correct about highlighting the arts, in particular, because Santa Monica does have a large population of people who do work in the arts; if I’m not mistaken, you have wonderful places like the Aero Theatre in Montana. Is there anything else that you plan on doing? 

Phil Brock: [laughs] Surviving. One of the problems has been that residents didn’t think that the city was listening to them or that there was real transparency, and they wanted a chance to weigh in. So, I will do my best to make sure the city’s citizens have a chance to weigh in; I’ll be doing office hours in City Hall, and I’ll return to town halls and walks with the mayor. I’m going to make sure that, as much as I physically can, residents in all neighborhoods feel that city hall is indeed the people’s place.

Dolores Quintana: Doing office hours and having opportunities like walks with the mayor will open up the dialogue. So that’s a very exciting thing. 

Phil Brock: The other thing is we have a divided city council, and having differing views on issues is absolutely appropriate, leading to good governance. However, all the city council members need to be willing to talk to each other and share the fact that they’re in a special place to help the people in this city. That has been overlooked, too. So I want to bring the city council back to where they are not only talking to each other but also cooperating with each other and reaching out to try and help our residents.

Dolores Quintana: Is there anything else you would like the city’s residents to know specifically, apart from the other things we’ve discussed? 

Phil Brock: I would like them to know I will be in their corner if they need me to talk to them. I’m always available, and I’ll be open to them. I’ll be open to trying to hear them and hear them better, and I really appreciate our residents.

I know there are buzzwords, but I really believe in talking to residents. So, I try and walk in different neighborhoods. Every morning, I make sure I’m out. I’ve done town halls before,

online and in person. I’m going to do a lot more of them. So, I’ll send out notices to residents and press releases to say, hey, join me on this walk on the beach or in the PICO neighborhood for a walk, whatever it is. I want to hear from residents because we will get our good ideas as a city from those who live here.

Dolores Quintana: Oh, it’s a good point, and they’ll be able to bring up issues that you may have yet to see because you don’t live in that neighborhood. 

Phil Brock: You mentioned something a minute ago that I have yet to key on, but the Aero Theatre. You said that, and my mind went to work. I started thinking about how one of our history moments should be about the Aero. 

Dolores Quintana: The Aero has been around for a long time, and on the west side, it is the home of the American Cinematheque. 

Phil Brock: It was originally a 24-hour-a-day theater because Douglas Aircraft [built it] and used it for its employees. I’ll also throw in that where I had my first kiss.

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