Activist Wins Council Seat in Unique Vote
California’s first weekend election produced a landslide Santa Monica City Council victory for a longtime community activist and easy passage of a measure strengthening renters’ protections.
The Santa Monica City Council, worried about low turnout in a conventional special election, scheduled Saturday and Sunday balloting and drew nearly 15,000 voters, a 27% turnout, officials said Monday.
Richard Bloom, a family law attorney who missed winning a council seat in November’s regular election by 92 votes, won a newly open seat on the council with 54% of the vote, compared with 33% for runner-up Susan Cloke.
Proposition 1, a City Charter amendment put on the ballot after increasing claims of unfair eviction attempts, won 72% approval.
“I think when you compare this to a stand-alone election in any other municipality, it’s a good turnout,” City Clerk Maria Stewart said.
Bloom’s easy win put an end to a months-long struggle for the council seat left vacant when Councilwoman Asha Greenberg resigned last fall after moving out of town. His win also gives Santa Monicans for Renters Rights, the city’s most powerful coalition, a 5-2 edge on the City Council.
The renters rights group had pushed for the eviction measure to be on the ballot in what many saw as a bid to increase turnout.
Although many voters welcomed the idea of voting on a weekend, they criticized the City Council for not agreeing on a successor to Greenberg after her October resignation, which would have averted the special election.
The city estimated that the election cost $157,000.
“I wish they’d given Richard Bloom the vote [by council appointment] and saved us $150,000,” said voter Loren Bloch, 45.
Bloom, who is expected to take his seat May 11, pledged to do whatever he could to keep rents affordable. Rent control advocates have been put on the defensive by a state law that went into effect Jan. 1 allowing landlords to impose unlimited rent increases when a tenant moved out. That “vacancy decontrol” had been prohibited in Santa Monica since voters approved a tough rent control law in 1979.
January’s law change saw an increase in complaints that landlords were trying to unfairly evict tenants to raise rents. The most common complaint was evictions based on pet ownership.
Proposition 1 said landlords could not evict a tenant for violation of a rule if the landlord had never enforced the rule before.