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Santa Monica Tax Hike Opponents Say Measure Will Lead to Massive Development

Phil Brock For Council 2014

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

Pacific Park, Santa Monica Pier

Santa Monica Convention and Visitors BureauWhen one lives in a city as breathtakingly beautiful and unique as Santa Monica, inevitably that city will be shared with visitors.

By Jonathan Friedman
Associate Editor

July 25, 2014 -- Is the real estate tax increase proposal on the November ballot an opportunity to fund affordable housing programs in Santa Monica, or is it a contrived attempt at “over-development”?

Those are the official arguments for and against the measure, which calls for the tax on real estate transactions of at least $1 million to go up from $3 per $1,000 to $9 per $1,000.

A companion measure says the money earned through the tax hike should support Santa Monica’s affordable housing program, although it is only an advisory proposal.

“This is a tax to fuel and accelerate even more high density, multi-floor development,” the opponents wrote in the argument that was placed on the City Clerk’s website this week.

The opponents offered the same theme in the argument against the companion measure.

“At a time when we have successfully unified to stop over-development, the City has resorted to this divisive measure to maintain its rush to greater density and congestion,” they wrote.

Most of those who signed both opposition arguments have campaigned against nearly all local proposals for taxes or tax increases, including Peter Tigler and Don Gray.

Frequent tax opponent Mathew Millen did not sign either argument, but he helped to organize them, according to a mass email written by Tigler.

The concept of a tax hike came from Andy Agle, the City’s head of Housing and Economic Development. Agle told the City Council earlier this month that money for affordable housing programs had been greatly reduced because of the State’s dissolution of the Santa Monica Redevelopment Agency in 2012.

“Sacramento has taken back over $68 million in funding from the City of Santa Monica, impacting essential services and programs such as affordable housing,” measure proponents wrote.

They added, “[Passage of the measure] will allow Santa Monica to continue to fund crucial housing and other programs for seniors, disabled persons and low-income working households."

Among those signing the proponents’ arguments were City Councilmember Tony Vazquez, Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights (SMRR) co-founder and former Mayor Denny Zane and SMRR co-Chair Patricia Hoffman.

The arguments will appear on the ballot and the sample ballot that is sent to voters several weeks before Election Day. Rebuttal arguments are due to the City Clerk’s Office next month.

The measure, which does not yet have an official name, was approved for the ballot earlier this month by the City Council in a 5-1 vote. Councilmember Bob Holbrook cast the opposing vote.

The City asks “the people who don’t own property to vote a measure through so that people who own property have to pay all the taxes,” Holbrook said at the council meeting. “It’s simple in Santa Monica when the majority of voters aren’t property owners.”

Councilmember Gleam Davis responded by calling the tax “invisible” and “one of those fees that gets [added] on with the 30 other fees that you pay when you buy a house.”

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