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Most Oppose Rival Tax Measures, Poll Finds
 

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By Lookout Staff

July 5, 2022 -- Rival ballot measures that would hike the local transfer tax on high-end properties currently lack the support needed for voter approval, according to a local monthly poll of select residents.

The monthly push poll of nearly 200 "civically engaged" Santa Monica residents concerned with crime and safety issues also found little support for Downtown's safety ambassador program.

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Taken via phone text between June 23 and 30, the Santa Monica Pulse poll found that 88 percent of the respondents opposed Mayor Sue Himmelrich's tax measure that "would increase the transfer tax on certain real estate transactions by 704 percent," according to the poll.

Six percent support the measure -- which appears to have enough voter signatures to be placed on the November 8 ballot -- while another 6 percent weren't sure.

The measure would charge a real estate transfer tax (RETT) of $53 per $1,000 on properties valued at $8 million or more, generating $50 million a year to help pay for "homelessness prevention, affordable housing and schools" ("Mayor's Tax Measure Appears Headed for Ballot," June 16, 2022).

According to the poll question, the tax measure "would greatly expand the city’s ability to repurpose existing buildings or construct new buildings for affordable housing with minimal independent oversight or resident input."

The Pulse poll also asked about a rival measure proposed by Counciilmember Phil Brock that would charge a real estate transfer tax of $15 per $1,000 ("Brock Proposes Alternative to Mayor's "Outrageous" Transfer Tax," May 26, 2022).

It, too, covers properties that sell for more than $8 million, but exempts single family homes and only applies the tax to the amount above that threshold.

The measure received an evenly divided response, with 43 percent of respondents supporting the measure and an equal percentage opposing it. Another 14 percent weren't sure.

Brock's proposal -- which would require the Council to place it on the ballot -- would raise an estimated $15 million a year "to support various local priorities, including public safety, fighting crime, and reducing homelessness," according to the poll.

Both measures require a simple majority of the vote. If they both receive more than 50 percent of the vote, the one with the most votes would be adopted.

The poll also found that 53 percent of respondents oppose the city’s downtown safety ambassador program, while 24 percent support it. Another 23 percent of respondents weren't sure.

The poll question noted that Barry Snell, chair of Downtown Santa Monica, Inc. (DTSM), defended the program, "saying it supports a safe downtown area" and "rejected recent calls to eliminate" it.

As the poll was being conducted, the City Council appointed three business activists to DTSM's board that could shake up the private-profit agency that runs the Downtown ("Council Shakes Up Downtown Board," June 29, 2022).

Two of the new appointees indicated in their applications that they would like to reevaluate the safety ambassadors program ("Downtown Officials Reject Calls to Replace 'Safety Ambassadors,'" June 6, 2022).

In early May, Brock called for replacing Downtown safety ambassadors with security guards and providing round-the-clock police patrols to clean up the Promenade ("Brock Calls for Get-Tough Approach to Promenade's Homeless Problem," May 2, 2022).

As with previous polls, the latest Santa Monica Pulse poll was sent to nearly 1,000 residents who "previously opted in to receive more information on education efforts surrounding crime and safety in their city." It had a 19 percent response rate.

The poll is conducted by Eyes on 11, a hotel union watchdog. Those who wish to be included in the next poll should email their name and cell phone number to SaMoPulse@gmail.com.


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