SMRR’s Efforts Go Beyond Local Matters

by Denny Zane, Co-Chair and Co-Founder

As in the fight against Senate Bill 50, SMRR has for years tried to influence the outcome of State legislation to ensure maximum protection for renters. When the Ellis Act and later the Costa-Hawkins Act were on the table in Sacramento, the late David Finkel, as a Rent Board member and as a Councilmember, and I went to the state capitol to lobby against each bill.

In 1986, Senate President Pro Temp David Roberti insisted that the proponents of the Ellis Act meet with us. We managed to lessen the impact of Ellis, by requiring longer advance notice for tenants plus higher levels of relocation funding. Seniors and disabled tenants must have one year notice, and relocation benefits can top $20,000.

In the Costa-Hawkins bill, approved in 1995, vacancy increases were initially phased-in with owners first being allowed to raise rents for new tenants by 15%. Now, unfortunately, vacancy increases can go to market.

Once, while in Sacramento, David and I and Rent Board member Wayne Bauer were the last customers in Frank Fats bar/restaurant when in walked Assemblyman Jim Costa. We struck up a conversation and he must have thought we were supporters of his bill and he spilled the beans on his strategy. He also said that whenever they were close to a deal, Senate President Pro Tempore David Roberti turned to “warm jelly.” When Christine Minnehan, Roberti’s Chief of Staff, heard about it, she said “this bill is dead.” It was, as long as Roberti was in the State Senate.

Last month, SB 50 by Sen. Scott Wiener died in Appropriations Committee just before the deadline to go to the Senate floor. He appears aiming to bring it back. If it passes both houses and is adopted as written, it will have state standards supercede local zoning in some areas near transit.

In Santa Monica, SB 50 would require all single family properties to allow four units instead of one or two. It will allow apartment buildings up to ve stories within a 1⁄2 mile from a train station or a 1⁄4 mile from a stop on a “high- quality” bus corridor. It exempts properties with existing residents but for only a period of time. Yet, it’s likely that very few new affordable units will actually be built as a result of SB 50.

There is much work to be done. Rest assured, SMRR will continue its efforts to protect Santa Monica from such disruptive State legislation.

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