Landlords’ Unusual Campaign Giveaway Pledge Will Be Honored : Some Will Win Prizes Even if Prop. M Didn’t
Santa Monica apartment owners said they will honor their pledge to award a Hawaiian vacation and other prizes to residents who entered the “Everyone Wins Giveaway,” despite the fact that nearly everyone who voted Tuesday rejected the landlord-backed initiative known as Proposition M.
The drawing for about $2,000 in gifts will take place on Friday. Geoffrey S. Strand, a spokesman for Proposition M backers, said sponsors have not decided where they will hold the prize giveaway, which comes 10 days after voters decisively defeated the proposal that would have allowed landlords to raise rents on vacant apartment units.
Apartment owners had tried to make their initiative appealing to tenants by offering the prizes and by pledging that renters would share in the profits realized under the measure. But the proposal received only 30% of the vote.
Apartment owners said they fully expect that some of the prizes in the sweepstakes-style contest will be awarded to people who voted against the ballot measure.
“We have a big sack of entries, maybe 4,000 of them,” Strand said. ". . . And yes, we expect some of the initiative’s opponents to win prizes.” The “Everyone Wins Giveaway” was one of the final volleys fired in a six-month campaign battle that pitted apartment owners against tenant activists and every elected official in the city. It was also one of the most unusual promotions seen in a modern-day municipal election, officials said.
The prize offer, hand-delivered last month to about 65,000 people, carried pictures of a tropical setting, a color television set, a bicycle and other gifts. It looked like a typical sweepstakes form. But inside it contained a lengthy promotion for Proposition M. Voters seeking to qualify for the prizes were required to answer a brief questionnaire touting the benefits of the initiative.
Apartment owners said the giveaway, scheduled to be held after the election to avoid legal problems, was an extension of their political theme--the idea that everyone would profit under the ballot measure. But opponents quickly seized on the opportunity to say that landlords actually were offering a bribe.
“It was a crude effort to try to interest people in their campaign literature,” said City Councilman Dennis Zane, a tenant activist who was one of the leading opponents of Proposition M. “It obviously failed.”
Strand said landlords still regard the prize offer as their best and most creative effort to educate voters. He said the effort failed because Proposition M’s opponents portrayed the promotion as something dishonest.
“We initiated the contest to try to honestly educate the voters,” Strand said. “But the political opportunists . . . took a good-faith gesture and made it look like something evil. They used it for their own opportunity.”
A survey of voting results by apartment owners last week showed that almost all of Proposition M’s support came from homeowners living north of Wilshire Boulevard.
Committed to Rent Fight
Strand said landlords remain committed to the fight against rent control. But he added that the Proposition M campaign has soured them on the initiative process. In a city where 80% of the residents are tenants, Strand said it is unlikely that apartment owners are going to make any gains at the ballot box.
“It was more of a clear-cut division than ever before,” Strand said. “Private property owners voted for it. People who think (landlords) are evil and barbarous voted against it. It was as simple as that.”
The failure of Proposition M means that the city’s Rent Control Board will continue to control rent increases in Santa Monica, a city covered by one of the nation’s most rigid rent laws. For the past seven years, the board has limited its annual across-the-board adjustments to less than 7%.
Apartment owners contend that they cannot survive under such tight constraints. They are now expected to focus most of their attention on the Legislature, which is considering a law that would prohibit Santa Monica and other local jurisdictions from exerting complete control over rents. But Councilman Zane said that rent control in Santa Monica has been vindicated. In addition to Tuesday’s vote, he noted that a state Court of Appeal recently rejected a landlord-backed suit seeking to have the law declared invalid. After two victories in two weeks, tenant activists were ecstatic.
“Opponents constantly try to characterize Santa Monica’s rent control law as a radical law,” Zane said. “But the voters and the courts do not view our rent control law as radical. It’s reasonable and reasonably enforced.”
In other election aftermath, Gloria J. Stout attributed her victory over William Mundell in the Republican primary for the 44th Assembly District to name recognition and hard work. Several political observers had predicted a photo finish in the Stout-Mundell race. But Stout emerged with 56% of the vote.
“We sent out a mailer, manned the telephones and attended a lot of meetings,” Stout said last week. “It was a hard race, because Bill (Mundell) had a lot of backing. I just hoped that my hard work would pay off.”
Mundell, a 25-year-old economist who lives in Santa Monica, was running in his first campaign. Stout, the 41-year-old owner of Palisades Camera, is a longtime activist in the district, which stretches from Malibu to Century City.
Invited to Debate
One community group already has asked Stout to participate later this year in a debate against her Democratic opponent in November, 44th District Assemblyman Tom Hayden. The Pacific Palisades businesswoman also is trying to rally support for her campaign.
“I think it’s very possible to win,” Stout said. “People want a project they can go out and work on, and that’s something we can draw on. But I’m not saying it’s going to be easy. We can never raise the money Tom can raise. We’ll be calling on county and state (GOP officials) for help.”
Hayden (D-Santa Monica) has served two terms in the Legislature. On Tuesday he received 77% of the vote against Democratic primary opponent J. Alex Cota. The chances of a Republican defeating Hayden in the 44th District are considered slim because Democrats outnumber Republicans 2 to 1.