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California Elections : Rent Issue Is Hot, Others Are Not in Tuesday Election

June 01, 1986|ALAN CITRON | Times Staff Writer

A highly charged campaign over a ballot measure that would soften Santa Monica's rigid rent control law is in sharp contrast to low-key contests on ballots Tuesday in the rest of the Westside.

Democrats are heavily favored in all of the Westside races for county, state and federal offices. All are incumbents except for attorney Terry B. Friedman of Westwood, who is expected to succeed 43rd District Assemblyman Gray Davis.

Most of the other candidates have conducted bare-bones campaigns. One challenger posted signs on a busy street in Palms that listed his last name three times without mentioning the office he is running for. In West Hollywood, another challenger advertised on a billboard towering over a grocery store.

Landlords vs. Tenants

But by far the most campaign activity could be found in Santa Monica, where a special election has been called on an initiative known as Proposition M.

Proposition M would abolish the section of the Santa Monica law that prohibits a landlord from raising rents on vacant apartments. Under current law, the city's Rent Control Board awards yearly rent increases. Proposition M would empower an apartment owner to raise the rent anytime a unit is vacated.

The measure already has generated four lawsuits and has been called the city's most controversial proposal since 1979, when the original rent control law was passed.

Proposition M is opposed by the entire City Council and faces an uphill battle in a city with a population dominated by tenants. Supporters, who say that apartment owners would be required to share their profits with renters under the measure, have conducted an extremely lively campaign.

Last month the Proposition M proponents offered prizes, including a trip to Hawaii, to anyone who returned a questionnaire attached to a campaign flyer. Now they are circulating a tape-recorded endorsement of the plan from Gerald Goldman, a former commissioner on the city's Rent Control Board.

Goldman Changes Camps

Goldman served on the board from its inception in 1979 to 1981, and was known during that period as "Hang 'em High Goldman" for his frequent confrontations with landlords. Since then, however, he has broken with the tenant activists who oppose Proposition M. Goldman said he agreed to endorse the landlord proposal because he no longer believes rent control is working.

"It's about time we got responsive to the mom-and-pop landlords who got stuck with artificially low rents," said Goldman, an unsuccessful City Council candidate in 1984. "One way to do that is through Proposition M."

Geoffrey S. Strand, a spokesman for Proposition M backers, said his group is hopeful that the Goldman endorsement will lead to victory. Strand said that he was also encouraged by the fact that more than 3,500 people entered the drawing for the prizes being offered by landlords. "We're winning," Strand said.

But Charlotte Houghton of Santa Monicans for Renters' Rights, a tenant group that opposes Proposition M on grounds that the measure would weaken the city's rent control law and provide nothing for tenants, said her organization is certain that the initiative will fail. Houghton said opponents will walk precincts and operate telephone banks through Tuesday's election.

"We feel confident, but not cocky," Houghton said. "The only thing that could bolster the chances for Proposition M passing is complacency."

The City Council members are publicizing their opposition to Proposition M in different ways. Councilmen Dennis Zane and James P. Conn are working through Santa Monicans for Renters' Rights. Mayor Christine E. Reed and Councilmen David G. Epstein and William H. Jennings have urged its defeat in a mailer to voters. Councilman Alan Katz did the same in newspaper ads.

One Race Is Nonpartisan

In other Westside election activity, more than 50 candidates have filed for the 12 county, state and federal posts that are up for grabs this year.

Eleven of the races are primaries. The other, for Los Angeles County supervisor, is a nonpartisan race that will be decided Tuesday. Edmund D. Edelman is running for reelection to the 3rd District, which includes Hollywood and West Hollywood. His opponents are Venus DeMilo, a clerical worker; Seth E. Galinsky, a laborer, and Khalil Khalil, an engineer.

The 43rd Assembly District race has attracted six candidates hoping to succeed Davis, who is running for state controller.

Friedman, with the backing of nearly every officeholder in the area and a campaign chest approaching $250,000, is regarded as the front-runner. His Democratic primary opponents are Bruce Margolin, a West Hollywood attorney, and Rosemary D. Woodlock, a Woodland Hills attorney.

The Republican primary will pit Marc Philip Schuyler, a student, against Lou Steeg, a retired real estate investor who is a follower of the arch-conservative Lyndon H. LaRouche Jr. John Honigsfeld, an aerospace engineer, is the sole candidate running on the Peace and Freedom Party ticket.

Hayden Takes It Easy

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