Santa Monica Lookout
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Election Season Kicks Off in Santa Monica

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark

Harding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP  law firm
Harding, Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

Pacific Park, Santa Monica Pier

Santa Monica Convention and Visitors Bureau

By Jason Islas
Staff Writer

February 12, 2014 -- Election season in Santa Monica got off to an early start Tuesday when political newcomer Ken Robin announced his bid for City Council.

Robin’s announcement that he would “stand firm against those that ignore our neighborhood Associations” sets the tone for what is likely to be a long and heated battle for three open Council seats.

With development once again a central -- and controversial -- issue and the Council’s longest-serving member, Bob Holbrook, undecided about seeking another term, Robin is likely the first of many to vie for a seat on the City’s seven-member governing body.

Former Santa Monica mayor Mike Feinstein said Tuesday that he was “strongly considering” a run, and former Lookout columnist -- and 2012 council candidate -- Frank Gruber has said he could run if Holbrook decides to forego a record seventh term.

Parks and Recreation Chair Phil Brock, a Santa Monica native who has positioned himself as an opponent of what he sees as overdevelopment, is expected to announce his candidacy any day.

In addition to Holbrook, the other incumbents up for re-election are Mayor Pam O’Connor and Council member Kevein McKeown.

McKeown, who has made strong showings in his previous re-election bids, consistently enjoys the support of Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights (SMRR), the city’s most powerful political organization.

While SMRR has backed O’Connor since she was elected to the City Council in 1994, in 2010 she did not receive the endorsement of the group’s membership.

The Steering Committee opted to override the membership’s vote and give O’Connor the organization’s endorsement.

With the SMRR Steering Committee -- backed by former mayor Denny Zane -- taking a stronger anti-development stance, it is unclear if O’Connor would get the organization’s endorsement this time around.

O’Connor, and three other SMRR council members, voted last week to approve the controversial Bergamot Transit Village after SMRR publicly lobbied the Council to reject the 765,000 square-foot mixed-use development.

While many other names have been bandied about -- including Planning Commissioners Sue Himmelrich and Jennifer Kennedy and even former mayor Denny Zane -- it will be some time before the candidate field takes shape.

Robin’s announcement Tuesday comes more than five months before Council hopefuls can even begin to officially file with the City Registrar’s office.

Starting on July 14, potential candidates can begin pulling papers to run and pay a $25 filing fee. They then have until August 8 to collect 100 signatures from registered voters.

Announcing now is much too early to officially declare for City Council, said Feinstein.

“I am taking a serious look at running,” Feinstein said. “But for now my energy is focused on development and other pending issues before our city.

“While I’ve already spoken to many community members and received positive feedback, if I do decide to run, it will be later in the spring or early summer,” he added.

Political observers had originally expected School Board member Ben Allen to seek a seat on the City Council.

Allen, who was elected to the School Board twice as a top vote-getter, was considered a strong candidate who could mediate between the city’s warring factions.

However, Allen announced this week that he would instead run to represent Santa Monica and the South Bay in the State Senate.

That was a relief to some, because Allen would not have been able to vote on the controversial plans by the Fairmont Miramar to overhaul its property on Wilshire Boulevard and Ocean Avenue.

Allen’s law firm has been working with the Miramar’s neighbor -- the Huntley Hotel -- which has spent much time and money fighting the Miramar’s plans to build a 320-foot hotel tower.

While the race will not likely kick into gear until summer, Robin is wasting no time reaching out to voters.

“I am a native of Santa Monica and I am running for Santa Monica City Council because I know how to fight for the renters, businesses, and homeowners that live here already, which is the best way to plan for residents and visitors in our future,” he said.

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