From Renters Write, March 2011

SMRR’s 1st Council Majority

On April 10, 1979 SMRR and Santa Monica tenants celebrated the passage of Proposition A, the Rent Control Charter Amendment. With an elected Board Santa Monica’s Rent Control was one of the strongest in the nation.

Two years later on April 14, 1981 the auditorium at the Retail Clerks Union on 2nd Street reverberated with cheers from the hundreds of volunteers when it was announced that Santa Monica voters had elected all four SMRR candidates for City Council. SMRR had just achieved its first City Council majority.

Jim Conn, Ken Edwards, Delores Press, and Dennis Zane joined Ruth Yanatta Goldway on the City Council. Ruth Goldway became Mayor. Robert M. Myers, author of the Santa Monica Rent Control Charter Amendment, became City Attorney. A Santa Monica Farmers Market became a reality. Morning became Eclectic (oops, scratch that last).

Santa Monica’s Silent Majority (the 70% of the City’s residents who are tenants) was no longer silent. A new era, an era of active citizen participation, had begun. And SMRR was right in the middle of it.

In 1979 Ocean Park was the most organized and active neighborhood in Santa Monica. It had its own newspaper, the volunteer run Ocean Park Perspective. It had a vibrant neighborhood organization, the Ocean Park Community Organization (OPCO). OPCO’s annual meetings were held in the East Wing of the Civic Auditorium. At least one of those was MC’d by Spinal Tap’s bass player.

In 1981 the new majority passed a moratorium on commercial development. It was no longer business as usual. They also established a number of task forces which provided additional opportunities for citizen participation. In the 80’s additional neighborhoods established their own organizations.

Prior to 1979 Santa Monica was kind of an “old boy” network. It was the Bay City of Raymond Chandler novels. After 1979 active participation and involvement in civic affairs became its trademark. Voter turnout for elections dramatically increased.

Santa Monica is a city worth caring for — filled with people who care for it.