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Santa Monica Ballot Gets Crowded with Measures

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and MarkHarding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP  law firm
Harding, Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

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By Daniel Larios
Staff Writer

July 7, 2014 -- In addition to placing a measure on the ballot in November protecting Council authority over the airport, the Santa Monica City Council will consider including two other ballot measures during its meeting Tuesday.

One measure would set the real estate transfer tax at .009 percent of sales price for all real estate transfers over $1 million, while the other would be an advisory vote on whether the increased revenues should be used for affordable housing.

The measures are an effort to replace as much as $20 million a year in Redevelopment Agency funds that helped build affordable housing in Santa Monica before the agencies were dissolved by California Governor Jerry Brown to help bridge the State’s budget deficit.

“The State of California’s elimination of the Santa Monica Redevelopment Agency has dramatically curtailed the City’s ability to support the production and preservation of affordable housing,” said Andy Agle, Director of Housing and Economic Development  

“Without continued support of affordable housing, economic diversity in Santa Monica may decline and the housing needs of lower-income members of the community cannot be addressed adequately.”

If passed, the first proposed measure would generate an additional $4 million to $10.2 million per year, according to City staff estimates.

The measure would require approval by more than 50 percent of voters, since it is an adjustment to the local transfer tax.

According to the staff report accompanying the council item, the City hired opinion research firm Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates (FM3) to conduct a telephone survey of Santa Monica voters to gauge voter attitudes toward the proposed real estate transfer tax and affordable housing in general.  

The April 2014 survey found that 56 percent of voters believe there is a “great need” or “some need” for additional funding to provide affordable housing in Santa Monica.  

A majority of survey respondents expressed some level of support for increasing the real estate transfer tax from .003 percent to .009 percent of sales value for properties sold for more than $1 million.  

Of those surveyed, 57 percent would “definitely vote yes,” “probably vote yes,” or “would lean toward voting yes” on the transfer tax measure, while 59 percent would support earmarking it fund affordable housing.  

After hearing educational statements about both measures, support for the transfer tax increased to 61 percent and support for the advisory measure increased to 67 percent, according to the survey.

“Survey respondents indicated the strongest support for the measures if the funds were used only for affordable housing, including acquisition and rehabilitation of existing apartment buildings,” staff wrote in its report. 

The strongest support was for housing “for seniors, veterans, persons living with disabilities, and people who live or work in Santa Monica.”

This is not the first time the City has put two companion measures on the ballot for voter approval and input.

In 2010, Santa Monica voters approved a “transactions and use” tax, as well as a measure asking if voters were in favor of allocating half of the revenues from the tax for school programs.  

Since adoption of the two measures, Council has allocated 50 percent of all revenues to school programs, according to the staff report.

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