Your search results

The Dirt on the SM-MUSD Divorce

Posted by John Hathorn on October 8, 2021
| 0

Divorce is never easy. Unfortunately, Santa Monica and Malibu never thought about a prenup when they combined their school districts. Now Malibu wants out.

Having had 2 of my 3 sons at Franklin Elementary school and then moving to Malibu and having all 3 attend Malibu high, I can easily testify that this has been a very long divorce battle. So long that I never thought it would ever settle. The split-up now seems imminent as they are closer than ever to finalizing it.

Malibu’s latest secession plan went to a key public hearing in mid-September. Los Angeles County Committee on School District Organization agreed with a recent staff report that said more time was needed to evaluate Malibu’s proposal to split the Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District.

Committee chair Cherise Moore said a vote to approve or deny the proposal will occur in March of 2022. If it’s approved, Malibu would use its own property taxes to pay for its schools, would share some of those riches with Santa Monica for a decade, and then would cut off its former partner. Since the two cities were “married’ for more than 10 years, it could have been a lifetime of financial support so 10 years might be a good deal for Malibu.

There are many reasons for the split, one of the key reasons being the cities’ geographic separation (Santa Monica’s urban setting versus Malibu’s more rural setting).

According to the City of Malibu’s petition for unification, “SM-MUSD administration focuses on the needs and goals of those students to the detriment of Malibu area students.” 85% of the students attending SMMUSD schools reside in Santa Monica and only 1 out of the 7 members is representing Malibu on the SMMUSD school board. Malibu also wants control over how money is spent on education programs, teachers, and what courses Malibu high school students are offered. It also wants the ability to create a safety plan that accounts for the community’s most prevalent disasters (fires, mudslides, and flooding).

A petition for the separation was first brought to the Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE) in 2017 and has been workshopped through negotiations between Malibu and Santa Monica. LACOE is recommending moving forward on a regular review of the proposal, even though LACOE Division of Business Advisory Services wrote in a preliminary report that Malibu’s petition to split does not meet eight of the nine conditions the County Committee uses to evaluate the proposal. Approving a petition for regular review is being seen as a “tentative approval” of the proposal by the SMMUSD. “Everybody agrees that there should be two school districts,” said Craig Foster, the Malibu representative on the SMMUSD board

However, the split causes many concerns ranging from potential low enrollment of Malibu students, shifts in Malibu community identity (creating higher costs to the state), and a possible shift in racial/ethnic enrollment demographics. The main concern both in the report and in both cities’ minds is finances. Will Malibu’s split cause financial trouble for students, the state, or the city of Santa Monica?

For now, the split is stalled. California decides a school district’s financial need based partially on a property tax threshold. If a district does meet this threshold, it will not need any state funding. If a district does NOT meet the property tax threshold, the state will have to make up the difference. The two districts that meet this threshold currently are SMMUSD and Beverly Hills. Proponents of secession argue that Malibu accounts for less than 15% of the students in the district, but the city’s property taxes make up 30% to 35% of SMMUSD revenue.  If the divorce is finalized, Santa Monica may struggle to meet the tax threshold then will need additional state funding while Malibu will continue to be above the threshold.

Another way the schools are allocated funds is by student daily attendance counts. Without the enrollment of Malibu students, funding provided will drop 21.52% from the current school board configuration in Santa Monica. This funding is crucial for low-income students, English learning students, and foster youth. Santa Monica would have to increase its funding for its most vulnerable students. Malibu’s funding, on the other hand, will be higher than the current combined school district.

“Based on the financial impact, it would be difficult to argue that the district, and more importantly the students, of the remaining Santa Monica USD would not be harmed by the precipitous drop in per-ADA revenue,” LACOE wrote in the report.

I have been neutral on the subject as I have a love for both cities, districts, and parents.

Many have asked me to “pick sides” but I empathize with both camps and I am glad my 3 are grown young men deep into their careers.

Despite Malibu’s many complaints on unfair representation in the school district and how it affects their students, schools in both cities top the charts in student achievement. Santa Monica High and Malibu High both had graduation rates of 95.3% in the 2019-20 school year, nearly 10 points higher than the statewide rate.



A longtime Bay Area developer, focused mostly on affordable housing, has turned a former Naval submarine factory into Factory OS that constructs apartment building components then transports them on flatbed trucks to their final location, cutting the time it takes to build an apartment building in half, to roughly only 11 to 12 months. With multiple parts of construction taking place at once in a controlled environment there are fewer delays and a more streamlined process….and it cuts costs by as much as 30%. So far they have completed 10 projects with 24 in the pipeline. A third factory will be opened in LA soon. (NY TIMES)

84% of home buyers said the energy efficiency of a future home is important to them but when asked what would motivate them to buy an energy-efficient home and the responses are mixed. Around 27% would prefer a greener home and would be willing to pay a premium for it, while 22% consider the green finance element, and the prospect of cheaper mortgages, a motivating factor. Less than 20% of respondents said the energy efficiency of a home would not influence their purchase decision. Reading and creating property descriptions these days, there is certainly notable increase in the mention of car chargers, solar panels, Passiv house tech, LEED certification, etc as selling features….. (LUXURY DAILY)


In your 90402 Real Estate News-

Right now there are only 18 active listings on the market. The newest of these active listings are:

311 21st Place– Listed for $3,750,000. Unusual mash-up style wise, but the price seems right enough to draw a buyer quickly.

427 Palisades Avenue– Listed for $5,950,000. The agents are expecting competing multiple offers today so the odds are that this house will be under contract by this time next week. Last sold in 2015 for $4,350,000.

746 20th Street– Listed for $3,295,000. Nice lot value opportunity. Although a little too close to Montana Ave for some, this 60ft wide lot is sure to entice builders and end-users alike.

There are 10 properties in escrow ranging in price from $3,150,000 to $12,995,000. The average days on market is 68. 

12 sold properties since my last update-

534 14th Street– Sold for $4,775,000. Originally listed at $4,875,000.

433 24th Street– Sold for $3,580,000. Originally listed at $3,650,000.

553 12th Street– Sold for $5,340,000. Originally listed at 4,995,000.

229 22nd Street– Sold for $5,310,000. Originally listed at $6,300,000.

1130 Georgina Avenue– Sold for $10,480,000. Originally listed at $10,950,000.

333 16th Street– Sold for $3,400,000. Originally listed at $3,450,000.

247 22nd Street– Sold for $3,500,000, the asking price.

710 10th Street– Sold for $3,728,000. Originally listed at $3,650,000.

520 17th Street– Sold for $3,705,000. Originally listed at $3,995,000.

728 12th Street– Sold for $5,475,000. Originally listed at $5,995,000.

1609 San Vicente Blvd– Sold for $5,540,000. Originally listed at $6,395,000.

2012 La Mesa Drive– Sold for $11,995,000. Originally listed at $12,995,000.

Compare Listings