Brock’s transfer tax measure could test SMRR’s influence

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By Jorge Casuso

July 11, 2022 — An upcoming vote on council member Phil Brock’s real estate transfer tax measure could be a key test of the political clout of the Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights (SMMR).

The tenants’ group that has dominated city politics for the better part of four decades weighed in on Tuesday’s city council agenda item with a letter to council and held face-to-face meetings with some of its members.

The group is led by former Mayor Denny Zane and former Housing Commissioner Michael Soloff, key players in strategy and campaign funding for Mayor Sue Himmelrich’s much more ambitious transfer tax.

“They’re pushing,” said council member Oscar de la Torre, who said he met Soloff, Mayor Himmelrich’s husband, on Sunday. “They want us to reject Phil’s measure and support Sue’s.

“There’s a full court press,” said de la Torre, who ran on a switch slate with Brock in 2020. “This (tax measure) isn’t just to increase revenue, it’s a political strategy.

SMRR – which endorsed just two of the Council’s five winning candidates two years ago – is seeking to gain political traction with Himmelrich’s measure, which would provide funding to keep vulnerable tenants in their homes.

The measure, which would impose a $53 tax on property sales over $8 million – up from $15 million under Brock’s measure – would raise about $50 million a year to help pay “the homelessness prevention, affordable housing and schools”.

While the Council must place Himmelrich’s measure on the Nov. 8 ballot on Tuesday after collecting the required number of voter signatures, Brock’s rival measure must be put on the ballot by the Council.

The Board is expected to pass the measure — which would bring in between $8 million and $15 million a year — on Tuesday when it discusses a staff report on its tax impacts (“Staff Recommends Placing Brock’s Transfer Tax on Ballot, Warns of Gaps”, July 7, 2022).

Brock says he will ask Council to make three key changes for staff to incorporate before Council votes July 26 on whether to put the measure on the ballot.

Brock wants to include a sunset clause that would eliminate the tax after ten years, and he wants to increase the amount of the tax to $20 per $1,000 for commercial properties that sell for more than $8 million, which, according to him, would make it possible to raise 2 million additional dollars. a year.

The money would be used to pay for City services that have been curtailed or curtailed during the coronavirus shutdown, including restoring after-school library and playground hours and school crossing guards at schools and fundraising. public safety initiatives.

“It provides services where they are needed in the city,” Brock said. “Right now we are in crisis. I want to get out of the crisis.

“Will this happen forever?” he said. “Damn no. We get back on our feet.

In addition to adding a sunset clause, which Mayor Himmelrich’s measure does not include, and increasing the amount of the tax, Brock wants to ensure that partnerships are not exempt from the tax if they share sales proceeds to circumvent the threshold.

Brock thinks the votes are there to put his measure on the ballot, in which case, if the two rival measures get a majority, the tax measure with the most votes would win.

“I thought we were still good,” Brock said Sunday. “That could obviously change. On Friday, I thought we had six votes left.”

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