On Monday evening, the Malibu City Council unanimously voted to strongly oppose the bond measure to support a $375 Million effort to fund an upgrade of facilities and build student housing at Santa Monica College (SMC).
The measure, dubbed “Measure SMC,” would provide affordable housing for homeless students; modernize learning labs for nursing, sustainability, media, and science careers; upgrade obsolete or aging vocational facilities. Those owning properties valued at $1 Million could expect an annual fee of $250 from the sale of bonds.
But the City of Malibu isn’t having it. Mayor Pro Tem Bruce Silverstein and Councilmember Steve Uhring proposed the city strenuously oppose the measure, which the city’s staff report says, “would impose a debt of approximately $125 million (plus interest) upon the residents of Malibu if passed at the November 8, 2022 General Election.”
As to why they see costs to Malibu as a bad thing, the staff report argues the measure imposes a “forced and grossly disproportionate share of that debt,” on to the city, and later contends, “Because Santa Monica College was once a part of Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD), Malibu is saddled with the same unfair and inequitable structure whereby our residents are legally responsible for approximately one-third of the funding for the College, while receiving negligible value in return for that substantial financial subsidy. Moreover, because funding for Santa Monica College is subject to a vote of the residents of both Santa Monica and Malibu voting together as a single population, the residents of Santa Monica can impose this debt upon the residents of Malibu if the residents of Santa Monica band together to do so, because the residents of Santa Monica comprise approximately 85% of the voters.”
Silverstein outlined the measure for his council colleagues, adding, “What we’re being told is they will spend $20 Million of it on a performing arts center in Malibu, but there’s no legal obligation for them to do that. That’s just a statement of intent.” He continued, “There asking us to spend $125 Million dollars to get back $20 Million dollars, and that just doesn’t make good financial sense.” He went on to lament the fact that many of the students who will benefit from the bond come from outside of Santa Monica or Malibu, including foreign students.
“I completely agree that we’re not getting what we need to sell this to our constituents, to the people of Malibu,” said Councilmember Mikke Pierson, who disclosed he was more open to something from SMC when speaking with college officials last year, but complained had not stayed in communication with him.
“This is not a good deal for Malibu. It’s a horrible deal for Malibu,” said Councilmember Karen Farrer.
For his part, Uhring cautioned his council colleagues that the SMC bond will likely be followed up in two years with yet another bond, a new Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District bond benefitting primarily Santa Monica High School. He also encouraged residents to read the staff report for the number of prominent Santa Monica activists who are arguing against the bond. Uhring made clear he wants to vote for something that only benefits Malibu.
Mayor Paul Grisanti, like Pierson, also disclosed he had met with SMC officials about the bond measure but told them it needed “to be a much greater return on our money.” He added, “Unless they were planning on sending at least $80 Million dollars to Malibu, it’s just such a terrible deal that I told them I couldn’t support it.”
Photo by Sabine Heindorf.