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Many Stones: United We Win

by Genise Schnitman, SMRR member

In the words of the old union song, “many stones can form an arch, singly none, singly none.”

This newsletter lets us rally our renter community for the struggles ahead.

As a volunteer organization, locally funded, by its members, SMRR may seem to communicate with our membership mostly at election time – but lots of important policy, strategy, and renter protection work is ongoing.

Starting in December and for a year to follow, the Mayor of our city will be a landlord, Phil Brock. This will coincide with a threatened “review” of rent control, initiated by Brock last year. Our housing stability, our household budgets, and perhaps even our ability to remain in Santa Monica may be at risk.

We can – and must! – protect ourselves.

Campaign finance reports indicate that the landlord Councilmembers up for reelection in 2024 (Brock as well as Oscar de la Torre) have enjoyed the backing of organizations opposed to the interests of renters. As candidates they pretended to be harmless to our progressive values, but their actions in office tell another story.

First, City Council negotiations for new senior staff were leaked, in clear violation of written confidentiality agreements, yet the landlord-led Council refused to investigate.

Then, abusing its appointment authority, the landlord-led Council enfeebled the Public Safety Reform and Oversight Commission, and banished our SMRR co-Chair from the Housing Commission. They packed the Downtown Santa Monica Board with wealthy commercial property owners in seats meant for local residents.

Last summer, in the wee small hours of a Council meeting, the landlord-led Council floated a scheme that would have meant the end of rent control as we know it. SMRR staved that off, barely, but now we face having rent control “reviewed” under a landlord Mayor.

Our best defense against the threat of such a rent control “review” may be to hold the landlord Councilmembers accountable for the damage they’ve already done, and to let them know that renters are watching and waiting — and are able to vote them out in 2024.

Over seventy percent of Santa Monicans are renters. “Drops of water turn a mill, singly none!” We were all safer in our apartments when SMRR enjoyed a clear majority on the City Council. We must get there again.

Genise Schnitman moved to Santa Monica in the mid-80s from an East Coast city that also had rent control, and joined SMRR to continue her social justice activism. She walked precincts, assembled walk packets, placed doorhangers in the early a.m. hours before Election Day, made GOTV calls, and eventually joined the Steering Committee. She continues to view keeping renters secure in their housing as key to maintaining the diversity and vibrant progressive values that make Santa Monica special.