What’s at stake this election

2024 will see Protect Culver City’s five year anniversary.  We began at 2am June 25th, 2019, after Council implemented rent control.  It was how they did it that struck us – in the dead of night, by a Council that never ran on the issue, shutting out all resident input and following verbatim the demands of their militants.  Thus we knew that rent control would not be our only or even primary issue.

We had no idea how right we’d be.  The following year Culver City saw the worst riots since the Rodney King riots of 1992.  Westfield Culver City would have been ransacked were it not for the heroic efforts of the Culver City Police Department.  To thank them, this same council that passed rent control pushed to defund them by 50%.  That proposal was narrowly defeated after one of their own, Coucnilman Fisch, balked at such a radical move.  That began our Defend Don’t Defund campaign, which highlighted Vera and Eriksson’s commitment to CCPD – and the commitment of others to defund it. 

Eriksson won re-election by a narrow 32 votes that year.  If he had lost to Puza, we would not have a police department as we know it.

Since then we have solidified our commitment to the city to inform residents on several issues that should be dealbreakers for any candidate – but unfortunately are not anymore:

  • Culver City should have a police department that enforces laws.  This is not a debate about what the budget should be, or what functions should be offloaded, but whether we have a functional police department.  Defunding 50% would cease their function as crime prevention and demote them to crime reporting. 
  • Our city has the right to clean up transient camps.  If we have a place to send transients, but they don’t want to go, we have the authority to compel them to move.
  • The city is growing and getting denser.  But we should not sacrifice the quality of our neighborhoods to get there.  Likewise, densification requires public space -and in turn, public safety.
  • We believe in the laws of physics and economics.  “Build more housing” does not summon builder elves.  We need economic policies that pencil out and work at the scale that we need – NOT blank checks to developers.  Likewise, naturally occurring affordable housing – i.e., Mom and Pop multifamily – should be supported, not penalized.
  • We push for such transparency and accountability in all the city’s finances, including the school board.
  • We need traffic policies that reflect the reality of commuting in Los Angeles.

These issues should be dealbreakers – but unfortunately, they are not anymore.  “Our Culver”, the latest activist organization in Culver City, advertised their initial meeting “Fund This!” at Veterans Park in April.  They made their intentions clear.  They see this as their Culver City, not everybody’s.  “Fund This!”, as Councilman O’Brien has pointed out, is an allusion to defunding the police – reviving their 2020 demands.  They try to soften the rhetoric for election season, by claiming they’re just diverting some funds to other programs like parks.  But they are otherwise quite clear about their intentions. 

Their tactics don’t stop here.  The MOVE lane closures downtown were enormously unpopular and helped swing the city council from 3-2 for it to 3-2 against it.  But rather than concede defeat, they preferred to file a frivolous lawsuit against the city to delay restoring the lanes.  One of the plaintiffs, Bubba Fish, is running for Council this year with activist support.  Regarding the rent registry doxing, they filed a complaint against Albert Vera, which is delaying council from discussing it as well. 

These tactics show they consider this their city, and they do not wish to share it democratically.

And while they did not stop the new Council from cleaning up the camps at the Senior Center and Venice/405, it took the new Council to get this done.  If they take back the majority, the camps will come back.  Their philosophy is anathema to ours: we can build transients the Taj Mahal – if they don’t want to move, we can’t make them. Compelling them to move, they claim, “causes harm.”

With basic livability issues like these at stake this election, you’d think electing sympathetic councilmembers would be a slam dunk.  Yet even with all the new moderate political organizations sprouting up in Culver City, the outcome of this election is not secure.

This is because when it comes to elections, the activists don’t run on the issues.  At Protect Culver City, we know this all too well.  If they advertised themselves as the candidates to shut down CCPD, shut down key car lanes, or allow tent cities, they would lose.  Instead, they come up with wild stories about Hackman buying out council.  Or smearing anyone who dares run against them.

Just Google our name, Protect Culver City, and you’ll see any number of hitpieces about us.  You’d think Hackman paid hundreds of thousands to import tiki torch donning Nazis into Culver City to smash the hopes and dreams of some innocent hippies.  It sounds like madness, but these articles get wide distribution through and outside our fair city, though activists on social media.  These hitpieces take their tolls.  They reach well meaning voters, who then second guess their support for candidates we support.  It chills the election environment, and prevents our supporters from campaigning openly and effectively.  Meanwhile, these activists proudly strut around their support for their own candidates.

We anticipated these tactics.  When we first formed to push back on the rent control conversation, we predicted that Council would not pay attention to us unless we forced them to.  Our ballot measure did that.  But rather than discuss rent control, they wrote hit pieces about us as some dangerous right wing threat. 

From our police department, to zoning, to dealing with transient camps, they kept these same tactics. 

Today we remain the only PAC in Culver City to have forced them to campaign against us.  Which is why we’ve borne the brunt of their attacks.  Other candidates thought they could just run on the issues and get slam-dunk support from voters.  They quickly saw their names dragged through the mud.  Thus learning the hard lesson that these are not neutral issues – one must stand up and fight for them.

But the city is adjusting.  Several other PACs have formed to push back against the progressive slate, as well as candidates championing them.  For better or worse, Culver City now has party politics.  It doesn’t translate to Democrat/Republican – the above issues enjoy wide bipartisan support – rather, it acknowledges that an individual candidate can no longer win on their own.  They need the support of these PACs and their members, who are ready to mobilize.

We already know who the progressives have picked to represent them – Yasmine McMorrin, Bubba Fish, and Nancy Barba.  The loose coalition of PACs opposing them are supporting Albert Vera, Denice Renteria, and Jeannine Wisnosky Stehlin.  These latter three have the thankless job of remaining above the fray of mudslinging while championing the causes we do. 

So how do we support them?  By sticking to the issues.  We cannot react in kind to the tactics of these activists.  We do not name-call, nor are we simply here to resist their agenda.  We have to put forth our own vision for the city, our stance on the issues, and where the candidates stand on these issues.  And we have to remind 29,000 Culver City voters what those issues are, and where the candidates stand.

Again, these seem like slam dunk issues.  But we can fully expect these activists to muddy the water and make the election about anything but these issues.  We need to campaign on these issues, loud and clear, to 29,000 voters.  We need mailer campaigns, door knockers and phone bankers of our own.  Our members need to have the tools to reach out to their neighbors and discuss these issues that essentially separate Vera, Renteria, and Wisnosky-Stehlin from Imani-McMorrin, Fish and Barba.

When voters are aware of these issues, vote on these issues, and ignore the noise and the mudslinging, we win.  We all win.

NO on Measure E: The more we look at it, the worse it gets

The basics: $86,000+ spent to pass Measure E – ALL from developers, NONE from residents:

  • TELACU construction $25,000
  • PJHM Architects $10,000
  • Barnhart Reese Construction $25,000
  • Ruhnau Clark Architects $25,000
  • Sandy Pringle Associates $1500

Contrast that to the expenditures against Measure E, with contributions entirely from Culver City residents and stakeholders:

  • $3000 from Protect Culver City
  • $2000 from Save CCUSD

$86,000 investment for a $360 million bond ROI?  Where do WE sign up?

Furthermore, TELACU has been going around campaigning for the bond measure.  Clearly, this is a conflict of interest.  But while activists accused Hackman of buying out the city by giving us $5000, they are utterly silent on this issue.

That this is a naked tax grab for fat developer contracts is already evident.  But by proponents’ own argument, voter’s only oversight to this will be the state oversight board.  

Meanwhile, we have Measure K from 2018 to see just how little oversight to expect.  Measure K raised over $2 million a year for school programs.  Most of it wound up going to a single contractor, New Earth – after the oversight committee had been dissolved, and with little to show for it.  When residents demanded an accounting of how the money was spent, they were met with Cease and Desist orders – from New Earth, with contact info provided by our new Assistant Superintendent of DEI.

Yes, it’s true.  While we need $360 million to fix leaky roofs, we can afford a DEI assistant superintendent – complete with office and staff.  Who is now on leave, presumably because of the above scandal.

This is in addition to many other ethical issues plaguing our school district. The idea of a bond measure to cover repairs has raised the attention of the county, which has asked for an audit of the city’s finances. The school district is also under fire for using school resources for political purposes, including their parental e-mail list.

So there you have every reason to doubt Measure E funds will go where they’re stated – even if you agree with the stated goal.  The details of this are still a bit iffy, but that’s the story as we understand it.

So what can you do?

We found that people who are supporting Measure E have been subjected to the pro-E campaign before we had a chance to talk to them.  Proponents have made some false claims, like that it won’t involve any tax increase, and is just free money from the state.  This is false.  It’s a $600/mil/year property tax increase.  So if your home is valued at $1.5mil, you can expect to pay almost $1000/yr to pay for this.

So, talk to your neighbors about this.  If you know someone with a YES on E sign, ask them if they’re aware of this information.

We put out our door hanger campaign, and that’s all the money we have to spend on the issue.  But letters to the editor are free, and so are forwarded e-mails.  If people want, we can create a PDF flyer to hand to neighbors to enlighten them about this issue.

Successful campaigns have the three M’s – Money, Message, Militants.  All the proponents have is money, and its ability to amplify a tiny voice.  We have the message, and we have the militants to get it out.  Let’s make sure our neighbors are aware of this disaster of a measure.

No on E: our homes are not your ATM

Arguing against a ballot measure is always difficult, especially when it comes to schools.  Immediately you must face the argument “why don’t you support our children? Why are you so miserly?”

But this measure will raise our property taxes significantly – $600/year per $1mil valuation of our homes.  And many homeowners in Culver City are on a fixed income – this extra $1000+ year tab won’t be easy to swallow.  Unlike a sales tax, there is no avoiding this.  Those of us footing the bill should expect an accounting of how that money will be spent. 

And right away we see issues in the language of the bond.  The money will be spent on needed repairs.  Not a brand new building or an overarching vision to renovate the campus.  Shouldn’t repairs be part of the general budget?  Yes, they should. 

So why are they asking for a bond to do needed repairs?  The answer is we have a school board that just isn’t very good at managing money.  They haven’t had a controller since March 2023, and have had issues staffing a number of other officers.   

One thing they’re not missing is their new assistant superintendent of DEI, along with a staff and office, or consultants at New Earth which apparently got most of the Measure K Parcel tax, passed in 2018.  The school board stonewalled the oversight committee.  When residents asked for some transparency, New Earth sent them cease and desist orders – with emails apparently provided by the assistant superintendent. People suspect that’s why the assistant superintendent is currently on leave.

When you look at who’s funding the passage of this bond, it gets worse.  $25,000 donated by TELACU construction and $10,000 by PJHM architects.  TELACU came under scrutiny in 2014 for its pay to play tactics in Centinela Valley school district.  They are actively campaigning for the very bond measure they stand to profit from. Some would consider it the standard kind of horse trading that goes on in elections.  It doesn’t make it any less repugnant to a small town based on small donations.  And it’s hypocritical given that the same people accused Hackman of buying out the city by donating $5000 to us. 

We get it.  Our city has expenses.  Sometimes, those expenses reach beyond the general budget, and the city needs to ask us to pitch in a bit extra to maintain or upgrade services. 

We just don’t think they’re into this bond for the benefit of the kids.

Given what we’ve seen – of this school board’s history, of their stated intentions for this bond measure, and of our ability to audit what they spend it on – this bond measure does not pass that scrutiny.  Vote NO on this one.  Our homes are not the school board’s ATM every time they come up short.

Our endorsement of Jonathan Hatami for District Attorney

District Attorney George Gascon’s radical policies have made LA County dramatically less safe.  Per CCPD statistics, crime in Culver City is up nearly 50% since he took office in January 2021.  There is little debate that the next district attorney needs to quickly and effectively undo the damage he has done.  

Many candidates have stepped forward to claim they would do exactly this.  Except for a couple candidates, challengers all agree on this platform.  

Hatami came seeking our endorsement in such a field of qualified and well funded challengers.  Our endorsement of him is not a criticism of these others, who we expect to support should they make it past the primary election.

We are endorsing Hatami because his story sparked our members with enthusiasm.  His is a simple story of a survivor of child abuse, who’s dedicated his life to giving victims justice and closure for crimes committed against them.  His role in the Gabriel Fernandez child abuse case got 30 million views on Netflix.  People know him and are ready to go to bat for him.

For us at Protect Culver City, that’s what matters.  Endorsing Hatami will allow us to harness our member enthusiasm.  We can rally behind one candidate and get the word out about the importance of the district attorney race.  We won’t confuse people with subtle distinctions.  

Most importantly, being able to campaign for him in the primary will get more voters out to vote against George Gascon and make sure he doesn’t et 50% of the vote in March – because if he does, he’s automatically re-elected.

We think Hatami is qualified, electable, and has a broad reach and a compelling story to challenge Gascon.  We at Protect Culver City are proud to offer him our endorsement.

So what does this mean?

Endorsing Hatami means we can start getting the word out to Culver City residents about the importance of this race.  Door hangers and flyers cost money – for that, we need your help!  It costs about $2500 to get a door hanger out to everyone who’s not behind a secure building.

DONATE NOW

The issue simply isn’t who to vote for – it’s who we need to make sure doesn’t make it past the primary.  Jeff Chemerinsky has several key endorsements – but at the DA debate the other candidates called him “Mini Gascon.”  They have reason to.  His father Erwin served on Gascon’s transition team.  And Jeff’s answers revealed he will do nothing different.

2024 Political Outlook – meet the BoS candidates!

Our current Council is divided 3-2 on issues people once took for granted:

  • Restore a second lane of traffic downtown
  • Defend CCPD funding and reputation
  • Remove tent camps at Senior Center and freeway underpasses

The 2024 election appears to be no different. Meanwhile, Culver City has graduated beyond the era of individual candidate. We now have two political “parties” in our city, for lack of a better term. Currently, the three member Council majority, and several players, are lining up behind three candidates for 2024: Albert Vera, Jeannine Wisnosky-Stehlin, and Denice Renteria. The two member Council minority is standing behind Yasmine Imani-McMorrin, Bubba Fish, and Nancy Barba.

As this election won’t be until November, with no primary, we will have this on the back burner. The March primary has some more pressing issues to deal with – County Supervisor, District Attorney, and a CCUSD bond issue.

Culver City requires cooperation with the County Supervisors to deliver on public safety and resolving homelessness.  Our current supervisor, Holly Mitchell, is a Housing First advocate and a police Defunder, who just renewed her endorsement of DA George Gascon.  We need better representation at the county level if we are to succeed as a city.  Meet a couple candidates who have a different vision for the county.

We will host meet and greets for two challengers:

Monday, December 4th, 7pm
Daphne Bradford
daphnebradford.com
JOIN ONLINE

Wednesday, December 13th, 7pm
Clint Carlton
carlton24.com

In-person at Veterans’ Park Kaizuka Room or online via Zoom

No RSVP needed for Zoom – but encouraged for in-person

Download our PDF flyer!

Daphne is an independent based out of Ladera Heights.  Clint is a Democrat based out of Marina Del Rey.  Both speak emphatically about the need for public safety in the county as well as the County’s responsibilities on resolving homelessness.  We encourage people to check out their websites and get in contact with the candidates.

Council to deliberate on rent registry Monday July 10th – city attorney answers our questions

Will discuss how to protect private registry information on item A-1

AGENDA    REQUEST TO SPEAK    ATTEND REMOTELY

Can the information on the rent registry be protected from a public records request?  What if it can’t?  Should we even bother with it?  That’s the question people need to be asking next Monday.  Enforcement of rent control does not need a rent registry or an expensive bureaucracy.  It simply needs outreach – so tenants know who to call if a landlord is in breach of the ordinance.

If you don’t have time to speak, you can file an e-comment at the agenda item above, or e-mail your comments to public.comment@culvercity.org

City Attorney Heather Baker has also answered our questions about this issuePer her answers, it is not possible to redact information deemed private, even at direction of Council. 

1. The attorney who published this website claims he obtained the rental registry information under the California Public Records Act, claiming any data the city owns must be publicly accessible.  He says he will continue to get up to date information by invoking this act.  Do you agree with this?  How do rent records compare with sales tax records – which, to our understanding, are not publicly accessible?

Based on research and evaluation, including the various privacy interests at play, the City Attorney’s Office determined certain information contained in the City’s rental registry records was required to be disclosed under the Public Records Act (PRA) and not covered by any PRA exemptions.

2. Per Google doxing standards, as well as the California Electronic Cyber Harassment Law (PC 653.2), aggregating publicly available data in an easily accessible format can be considered doxing, given proper context.  In your opinion, do either of these standards apply here?  Does the city have any legal recourse to stop this website from being published in this manner?

Our Office has not reviewed this issue.  Notwithstanding, I cannot provide you with legal advice, and any opinion we would have in this regard would be subject to the attorney-client privilege. 

3. Do you think making tenant addresses and rents accessible to the public violates the privacy rights of tenants?  How about revealing landlord names and property addresses?  Namely considering many of these landlords are owner-occupiers, and this is also their home address?

All of these factors were taken into consideration when determining whether a PRA exemption would apply to the City’s rental registry records.  As mentioned above, after carefully considering these factors, it was determined that certain information contained in the records was required to be disclosed under the PRA. 

4. If the city has no legal recourse against this attorney’s website, is there a way to rewrite the rent control ordinance to protect these records from future public records requests, while ensuring landlord accountability on rents?Assuming there is a way – would you support editing the ordinance to protect information submitted to the registry?  If so, what would you protect, and what would you allow public access?  If not, what alternatives do you see to protect this information? 

The Culver City Municipal Code can be amended at any time upon a majority vote of the City Council.  City staff and the City Attorney’s Office are unable to respond to the remainder of these questions, as we receive our direction from the City Council. 

Planning commissioner doxes rent registry

When Culver City passed rent control in 2019, they created a rent registry which would be public record. Attorney Stephen Jones, who serves on the Planning Commission, invoked the California Public Records Act to pull all tenant information from the rent registry. He then aggregated it into an easily accessible format at ccrentals.org.

In response, Council has agendized whether to make this registry protected private information at their July 10th meeting. They’ve also temporarily taken down their registry portal, which allowed anyone to look up rents as well.

We’ll be posting regular updates about the upcoming meeting, and how to make your voice heard, on this page. We did ask councilmembers on their thoughts about the issue. However, the city attorney advised us that they will not be answering, as this could result in a Brown Act violation.

We still encourage everyone to write or call them yourself and tell them your feelings on this issue. You can find their email and phone number here.

We consider this website to be a grave violation of tenants’ privacy rights. We don’t believe anybody expected their rent to become public knowledge. This results in any number of negative consequences:

  • Because tenant rent is now public information, it will make it easier for people to determine their income.
  • This information can be used by others in legal proceedings. Generally, knowing that someone has to make 2.5x the average monthly rent, you can estimate the monthly income of each home. This can be used in lawsuits including child and spousal support. Judges are known to modify and/or make these calculations for support just based on someone’s living expenses.
  • This could also be used by tax agents to verify income tax statements.
  • Addresses with the highest rents are also now common knowledge – making an easy database for criminals to target.

There are many ways this does not end well.