Santa Monica Lookout
Santa Monica's Powerful Renters' Rights Group Chooses New Leadership
By Jason Islas
September 24, 2013 -- After four years, former mayor Denny Zane has returned to the steering committee of Santa Monicans for Renters' Rights (SMRR), a group that he helped found 35 years ago and has since become the city's most powerful political organization.
While the official numbers weren't available, sources said that SMRR members overwhelmingly voted Zane -- a vocal opponent of proposed high-rise hotels in Downtown Santa Monica -- back onto the 13-member committee at the organization's annual convention Sunday at the Church in Ocean Park.
Incumbent steering committee members Catherine Eldridge and Linda Sulliva as well as newcomer Tom Peters failed to make the cut.
But since the steering committee reserves the right to pick two of its 13 members, Eldridge and Sullivan -- whose husband, Bob Meyers, is a former City Attorney and the architect of Santa Monica's Rent Control law -- could still be appointed to the committee, which has ultimate discretion over who the powerful group endorses for public office.
Zane, who stepped down from his position on the steering committee in order to devote more time to his public transit advocacy group Move LA, said he was honored by all the support he received.
“I was a little surprised by the eagerness with which I was encouraged by many people,” he said.
Zane has spoken against proposed hotel developments in Downtown Santa Monica that would exceed the City's current height limit, which he helped codify nearly 30 years ago.
Specifically, Zane is opposed to the scale of three proposed luxury hotel projects along Ocean Avenue that range from 195 feet tall to more than 300 feet tall, more than double than the 84-foot limit Zane and his colleagues on the City Council approved in 1984.
“Santa Monica has the pressures of success happening,” he said. “But they're powerful pressures and they are pushing the City to build beyond what it should be doing.”
While he is back on the steering committee of Santa Monica's most powerful political group, which has enjoyed a majority on the City Council since 1988, Zane said he has no intention of running for office in the future.
“I've got a lot of work to do with Move LA. We're working on important issues on the Federal level and the state level,” he said. “I think there are frankly amazing possibilities in the near future for an even more robust public transit system throughout California.”
One of the major themes at Sunday's meeting was the importance of maintaining Santa Monica's stock of affordable housing, a goal which is listed second on the group's 2012 platform.
The problem is especially daunting after State legislation ended the City's Redevelopment Agency (RDA) last year, along with 400 others throughout California.
Santa Monica relied heavily on tens of millions of dollars annually flowing into the City's coffers from its RDA in order to fund affordable housing projects and subsidize rents.
Assemblymember Richard Bloom spoke at Sunday's meeting about SB 391, the so-called California Homes and Jobs Act, which would raise money for affordable housing by levying a $75 fee on real estate transactions.
Bloom, who coauthored the bill, said that SB 391 is “particularly important here in Santa Monica where we would spend that money very, very wisely.”
SMRR steering committee member Bruria Finkel said that she is glad to have someone with Zane's experience back, especially as Santa Monica struggles to find sources to fund affordable housing.
“I think he is a very astute and excellent thinker and sees things very clearly,” she said. “Any time that he will give us will be precious.”
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