The final vote counts for Santa Monica’s local elections are in, showing big wins for incumbents and an unambiguous rejection of the no-growth ballot initiative, Measure LV.
The final tallies, which were officially certified by the office of the Los Angeles County Registrar on December 2, also show big wins for Measure V, the Santa Monica College bond measure, Measures GS and GSH, a sales tax increase to fund affordable housing and school improvements, and Measure SM, which broadened, renewed and clarified the city’s Oaks Initiative to curb corruption.
The final tallies also show that Santa Monicans turned out this November. Of the 68,644 registered voters in the city, 51,662 cast their votes, or about 75 percent of registered voters voted, though, of course, not all of them voted on the local races.
A Clear Victory for Incumbents
In the Santa Monica City Council race, all four incumbents seeking reelection won, with Councilmember Terry O’Day coming out on top with 19,263 votes. Mayor Tony Vazquez came in second with 18,456 votes followed by Mayor Pro Tem Ted Winterer (18,156 votes) and Councilmember Gleam Davis (17,842 votes).
The results suggest voters are supportive of the direction the city is going in. The fifth place vote-getter, Armen Melkonians, came in more than 5,000 votes behind Davis. He received 12,603 votes. Melkonians, who was the co-author of the extreme no-growth initiative Measure LV, ran a vitriolic anti-incumbent campaign. He also publicly rebuked many of the policy directions set by the sitting Council, including the need for more housing, even affordable housing.
Voters Said “No” To Ballot-Box Planning
Measure LV failed handily by 11 percentage points in the final vote count: 24,475 voted against the measure while 19,786 supported the measure.
The fight over Measure LV was easily the most contentious in Santa Monica this election season. The measure would have required a city-wide vote on nearly every project in the city taller than 32 to 36 feet. The opposition to the measure was strong. The measure’s extremity galvanized the broadest coalition in the city’s history to oppose the measure and two campaigns, one run by Santa Monica Forward and another by a group called HOME, sprang up to oppose the measure (Jason Islas, the author of this article, helped manage Santa Monica Forward’s campaign against Measure LV).
While supporters often pitched the measure to voters as a referendum on traffic and rising rents, they never made clear exactly how dramatically reducing the amount of new housing allowed in the city would reduce traffic or stop exorbitant rent hikes.
Given that the majority of weekday traffic in Santa Monica is a result of people who don’t — or can’t afford to — live in the city (the city’s residential population has increased by fewer than 10,000 since 1960) driving to work, making it impossible to build new housing in the city would likely have made traffic worse, or, at best, prevented it from ever getting better.
Supporters of LV have chalked up their loss to the fact that the two opposition campaigns combined raised a significant amount of money to fight the measure. However, it’s worth noting that just two years ago, a contentious electoral battle over the future of the airport saw voters reject Measure D, a well-funded initiative backed by the aviation industry, over the City Council-backed Measure LC despite the fact that proponents of Measure D outspent the LC campaign by a wide margin.
Rent Control Board and Santa Monica College Board of Trustees
In the race for Santa Monica College Board of Trustees, all three incumbents were reelected. Susan Aminoff (25,101 votes), Margaret Quinones-Perez (22,787 votes), and Rob Rader (22,187 votes) beat out challenger Sion Roy, a doctor and local Democratic Club activist, who received 19,424 votes.
In the race for Rent Control Board, Anastasia Foster, who was appointed to the board in order to fill an unexpected vacancy, was returned to the board by voters with 13,825 votes and newcomer Caroline Torosis was also elected to the board with 15,596, knocking out incumbent Chris Walton (7,728 votes). Torosis and Foster, both of whom received the nomination of Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights (SMRR), also defeated anti-rent control activist and landlord Elaine Golden-Gealer, who received 8,491 votes.
Voters Approve Funding for Affordable Housing and Education
Voters also soundly affirmed their commitment to funding schools and affordable housing. Measure GS and GSH enjoyed a solid victory. In the final count, 29,163 voted yes on GS and 26,190 versus 12,391 and 15,812 no-votes respectively.
Measure GSH raised the city’s transactions and use tax by one-half percent in order to generate an estimated $16 million a year. Measure GS was an advisory measure that said, should GSH pass, the revenue generated from the tax increase should be used for affordable housing preservation and production as well as for repairs for school facilities.
Measure V, a $345 million bond for maintenance and construction of facilities on Santa Monica College campus, also won unambiguously: 30,970 voted for the measure while only 17,497 voted against it. The measure was on the ballot in both Santa Monica and Malibu because the college district encompasses both cities.
Measure SM also passed easily: 32,231 voted yes while 6,489 voted against the measure, which broadened, renewed and clarified the city’s Oaks Initiative to curb corruption. There was no formal campaign either for or against this measure.