SMRR Keeps Name

By Jorge Casuso

Ending a longstanding debate with a compromise, members of Santa Monicans for Renters' Rights on Sunday voted to keep the 20-year-old grassroots group's name, while adding a line to include homeowners.

The vote reinforces the group's commitment to protecting tenants, while reaching out to non-renters with the line, "Serving the needs of all Santa Monica residents since 1979." The line will appear below the political organization's name on all SMMR literature.

The nearly unanimous vote ended an emotional debate on whether to include the word "residents" in the name of the organization that brought rent control to the city of 93,000. Instead of adding the word "residents" or substituting it for the word "renters," members also voted to create a subcommittee - Santa Monicans for Residents' Rights - that will reach out to homeowners.

"We wanted in addition to continuity an approach that allowed us to communicate to non-renters that we advocate for them as well," said former mayor Dennis Zane, a SMMR founder who co-chairs the organization. "We wanted to reach out to others that we had a broader agenda that included them. But we didn't want to create any false belief that we were de-emphasizing renters' rights."

The compromise was hammered out by a seven-member subcommittee the included both proponents of keeping the name and those who advocated changing the name to be more inclusive.

In the end, the committee decided that including the word "residents" in the name would cause some renters to think the organization had pulled back on its commitment to protect tenants during what city officials have called an affordable housing crisis.

"We need now more than ever to stress our renters platform as our major issue," said Rent Board Commissioner Alan Toy. "We need to put the fire under all elected candidates to stick to the issue of renters' rights."

By adding a line under the name, as well as creating a subcommittee, SMMR hopes to expand its base to include homeowners who share many of the organization's concerns - over-development, traffic and parking, and the environment. SMRR council members recently sided with homeowners north of Montana Avenue, voting to stop the proliferation of "monster mansions."

"We want to be inclusive," said Nancy Greenstein, who co-chairs the organization.

Many of SMRR's leaders, including Greenstein and Zane, are themselves homeowners.

The group also voted Sunday to reelect all eleven members of its Steering Committee, which sets the group's policies. They are Jay Johnson, Patricia Hoffman, Dolores Press, Eileen Lipson, Judy Abdo, Dennis Zane, Nancy Greenstein, Linda Sullivan, Beth Leder-Pack, Roger Thorton and Bruce Cameron.