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City Survey Shows Rising Dissatisfaction: Homelessness, Traffic, Parking All Cited

Hannah Heineman Mirror staff writer Commissioned by the City of Santa Monica and conducted by Goodwin, Simon Strategic Research (GSSR) last month, a telephone survey found that residents believe the three most important issues facing Santa Monica are homelessness, traffic and parking and that residents are divided on the City’s handling of neighborhood concerns and spending priorities. The last survey was done was in 2002. 550 adult residents, selected at random, took part in the new survey. 400 of the participants reside throughout the City, while 150 live in the Pico Neighborhood. According to the survey, 45 percent of the people polled believe “homelessness on the streets or lack of services for the homeless” is the most important issue facing Santa Monica. In 2002, 33 percent ranked homelessness as the number one issue. The new survey also found that 25 percent of those questioned feel traffic is the most significant issue, up 7 percent from 2002, while 16 percent of residents see parking as the most important issue today, up 8 percent from 2002. “Other issues mentioned by 10 percent of the responders or more were crime/gangs/drugs, and education. Nine percent mentioned growth.” 25 percent of Pico area residents see crime/gangs/drugs as important issues while only 8 percent of residents Citywide cite these issues. Residents were also asked to rate the City on its ability to “address neighborhood concerns.” 45 percent rate the City positively while 39 percent give it a poor rating. The positive rating is down 11 percent from 2002. 54 percent of the residents polled give the City a negative rating for “spending money in the right areas and on the right problems,” while 24 percent give it a positive rating on the question. 33 percent of resdents polled believe the City is not spending enough on “services for the homeless,” while 17 percent believe the City spends too much on such services. There were marked differences in responses to this question from Pico area residents and Latinos and others. According to the survey, Pico area residents and Latinos, newcomers and renters are more likely to feel the City doesn’t spend enough on homelessness than homeowners and long-time residents. 51 percent of residents give the City negative ratings for “enforcing laws against aggressive begging or panhandling” by the homeless and 47 percent give negative ratings to the City’s “enforcing laws against overnight camping in parks and doorways.” Less than 40 percent of residents give the City a positive rating for enforcing laws against the homeless. Asked “how efficiently the City operates,” 40 percent of respondents give the City a negative rating. 45 percent of the respondents feel the incidence of crime in Santa Monica hasn’t changed, while 26 percent believe there is less crime and 17 say there is more crime. When asked about Police Department priorities, 30 percent of residents polled called for more neighborhood patrols, 21 percent wanted police to work with local residents to prevent crime, 18 percent said they should work with local youth to reduce gang activities and 16 percent said there should be more patrols at schools. Pico area residents gave working with local kids to prevent gang formation a higher priority (25 percent) than residents from other parts of the city. Paramedic services received very high marks, with eighty-seven percent of those residents who used the services praising them. Also receiving high marks were City parks. About 80 percent of residents say the parks are “safe, clean and well-maintained and nearly 90 percent say parks are convenient.” 45 percent of the people polled had contacted a City department for a non-emergency purpose. 70 percent said City staff was responsive, 75 percent said they were knowledgeable and 83 percent found them to be courteous. “Homeowners were more likely than renters to have contacted the City,” and those earning more than $100,000 a year were more likely than those earning less to contact the City. Reponses also showed that Pico area residents were less likely to contact the City. 71 percent of the respondents say “the longest acceptable length of time the City should take to respond to a non-emergency calls is ten days” while another 10 percent say the “City should respond in fewer than ten days.” Seven out of ten of the respondents are pleased with the City’s efforts to communicate with residents. “Moreover, 71 percent say they feel they have the opportunity to voice their concerns to the City on major community decisions.” 51 percent of the participants used the Big Blue Bus in 2004. Latinos used the bus more frequently (68%) and 60 percent of the users earned less than $60,000 per year. 71 percent of those surveyed “have intentionally not used their car for a trip in the past month, instead using another form of transportation.” Participants also rated specific City services. Positive responses were trash collection (80 percent), landscaping (79 percent), Fire Department (74 percent), library (71 percent), 911 (69 percent), tree trimming (68 percent), pedestrian safety (62 percent), enforcement of noise laws (60 percent), recreation and sports programs (60 percent), protecting the environment (58 percent), street/alley cleaning (58 percent), senior services (53 percent), historic preservation (52 percent), youth services (49 percent), arts funding (44 percent), enforcing zoning and building laws (44 percent), early childhood education (42 percent), keeping traffic flowing smoothly (37 percent), and enforcing airport noise limits (35 percent).Finally, the survey found that 25 percent “have heard of the City’s Sustainability Plan including 36 percent of homeowners compared to 19 percent of renters.”

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